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September 3, 2005

by SG

It's been a long hard road for Aaron Small. It began as a 22nd round draft pick out of high school by the Blue Jays in 1989.

After 7 years, he was called up to Toronto, where he pitched once. He was then traded to Florida, for PTBNL who never made the majors.

From there, he was released by Florida and signed by Seattle. Six days later, Seattle released him and Oakland picked him up off waivers. After 2.5 years in Oakland, primarily in relief, he was waived again. This time, Arizona picked him up. After 1/2 season they waived him. He signed with Milwaukee on April 12, 1999, and was released on May 23, 1999 having not pitched once for them.

As a free agent, he then signed with Tampa Bay. He was let go the following year, again without seeing any major league time.

The following offseason, he signed with Colorado.

The offseason after that, he signed with Anaheim. Anaheim released him in May, and Atlanta picked him up. He pitched once for Atlanta, then got cut again. This time he went to the Cubs. The Cubs released him next, and he went back to Florida. He left Florida in October 2004, and signed as a minor league free agent with the Yankees in January of this year.

Along the way, Small pitched for 22 different professional teams.

Atlanta Braves
Az Diamondbacks
Colorado Springs
Florida Marlins
GCL Braves
Medicine Hat
Myrtle Beach
New York Yankees
Oakland Athletics
Salt Lake
Toronto Blue Jays

Small's basically been an organizational filler. Never quite good enough to stick in the majors, and unimpressive in his time in Columbus this year. The Yankees, desperate for arms and running through 14 different starters, gave him a chance.

The transaction history tells you that he's not considered much of a talent. The minor league career ERA of 4.37 says the same. The career major league ERA of 5.52 also confirms this.

However, this season, he's been pitching brilliantly for the Yankees. With today's five hit complete game shutout, Small came up big for a Yankee team that had lost 3 of its previous 4 games and got embarrassed on Friday night by a team they are fighting with for the AL wild card.

It's not really likely that Small has discovered a new talent level at age 33. He's fanning 4.2 men per nine innings. He's walking 3 per nine. There's no questioning his determination though. Anyone who's hung around organized baseball for 16 years just trying to get back to the majors is definitely tough.

Regardless of his peripherals, he's now 6-0 with a 2.42 ERA. It's an open question how well he will pitch going forward, but right now there can't be any reason that he should not be one of the Yankees' five starters for the rest of the season, particularly with the news that Mike Mussina's return is an open question. Al Leiter got bombed on Friday, and it was not a surprise. With the expanded roster, there are enough arms in the pen now that losing Small from there shouldn't be a huge issue. I also think the risk that Leiter presents of burying his team early is not worth taking the chance. Unfortunately, with Chien-Ming Wang struggling in tonight's rehab start in Columbus, the Yankees may not have the luxury of moving Leiter out.

Tomorrow's game looms large, with Shawn Chacon trying to shake off his first bad outing as a Yankee against Oakland's Barry Zito, who is pitching extremely well after a rough start. A win tomorrow will make up for splitting with Seattle, and knock one more road game off the schedule.