Now healthy, Wade feels ready to contribute

NEW YORK — Cory Wade believes he’s a better pitcher now than he’s ever been.

The Yankees can only hope he’s as useful as he was three years ago.

That came during his rookie season with the Dodgers in 2008. Wade, a 10th round Draft pick in ’04, posted a 2.27 ERA, a 0.925 WHIP and 51 strikeouts to go along with 15 walks in 55 relief appearances that season. Then came a rough ’09, shoulder surgery, a Minor League stint with the Rays and — after opting out of his contract in hopes of landing elsewhere — a current stint with the Yankees.

The sample size is still really small. But so far, so good. On Wednesday night, Wade made his first Major League appearance since July of ’09 and hurled a shutout inning. On Thursday afternoon, he hurled two perfect frames in the Yankees’ 3-2 extra-inning, notching his first victory in over two years.

Wade (pictured right by The Associated Press) was lights-out in the Rays’ Minor League system, but there wasn’t a spot for him on the big league club. There was plenty of spots on the Yankees, though. And shortly after Joba Chamberlain was pronounced out for the year with Tommy John surgery — joining fellow relievers Rafael Soriano, Pedro Feliciano and Damaso Marte on the shelf — the Yankees brought Wade in, hoping he can give their bullpen something — anything! — to keep them afloat.

“You don’t want to see a guy go down,” Wade said, “but the opportunity kind of presented itself out of nowhere, and I’m glad they’re taking the chance on me and allowing me to come pitch and help out.”

Wade claims it was discomfort in his right shoulder that disallowed him to continue his rookie success. He pitched through off-and-on pain during that ’09 season, a pain that kept being classified as bursitis. The pain continued as he landed on the disabled list in mid-April, then posted a 5.53 ERA before being optioned back-and-forth.

Wade posted a 5.53 ERA in 27 games in the Majors and a 6.46 ERA in the Minors that year. The following March, an MRI revealed he had what’s called an acromial hook, so Wade had doctors try exploratory surgery that shaved the bone down to allow more room in his shoulder to ease swelling.

“Granted, it’s a shoulder surgery, so it’s always bad,” Wade said. “But it was nothing like a tear in my shoulder or anything like that. That never happened.”

Wade had the surgery in March and was back on the mound in time to pitch the last two months in the Dodgers’ system. His stuff wasn’t fully back by that point — as evidenced by a 5.40 ERA in 25 games — and that’s what he said made him learn to locate and deceive better.

“When you’re first coming back, you don’t have your best stuff and you have to learn how to figure out how you’re going to get guys out,” Wade said. “And then when I finally got healthy, I was able to take that and add it, so I think I efinitely came out for the better.

When his stuff returned, Wade succeeded, posting a 1.23 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP in 36 2/3 innings for the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate. Wade’s contract included an opt-out clause for June 15, but realizing there was no fit for him in the Major League club, the Rays let him out two days early.

At that point, Wade figured it’d be time to wait. But he didn’t have to wait long at all.

The Yankees had recently lost Joba for the season, and just before Wade was going to go on a trip with his family from Durham to Indianapolis, he got a call from the Yankees. After appearing in one game for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he was back in the Majors.

“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Wade said. “It was just perfect timing, I guess.”

Many don’t know who Wade is, but there’s a benefit for the 28-year-old right-hander being with the Yankees — his catcher, Russell Martin, does.

“He’s a guy that has good command,” said Martin, who also served as his catcher in Los Angeles. “He doesn’t have super-power stuff. [He'll throw] 88-90 [mph] with his fastball; changeup, [he] throws it to both sides of the plate; he can throw his curveball any time. He’s just a guy who’s going to pitch to contact and not walk many guys.”

Wade did that in the Yankees’ walk-off win over the Rangers on Wednesday, hurling a perfect 11th and 12th inning — getting two strikeouts and three groundouts — to eventually notch his first win since June 13, 2009.

Wade believes he’s set up to succeed again because — for the first time since the early part of the ’09 season — he’s healthy again.

“Really, being healthy is all it was,” Wade will say. “I knew, the way I pitched in ’08, if I was healthy I could do that again. And now I’ve gotten to the point where I’m healthy again. I don’t have to worry about the shoulder. I can just go out and pitch.”

– Alden 

** What I wrote this week: Major League Baseball hasn’t seen this much parity this late in the season since the Wild Card era began; Endy Chavez has been an out-of-nowhere key for the defending American League champion Rangers. 

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Now healthy, Wade feels ready to contribute « Gonzo and ‘The Show’

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