Sunday, February 23, 2014

John Habyan, Valuable Role - 671

Originally published Feb. 1, 2012
Yankees manager Buck Showater was blunt in his assessment of John Habyan in April 1992.

On the young season, Habyan had thrown 11 innings of relief, giving up one run. He was also the Yankees top set-up man.

"I don't think we have a player any more valuable than John Habyan," Showalter told The Baltimore Sun.

Habyan would go on to pitch in 56 games for the Yankees that year, his seventh season with time in the majors. He would also play a valuable role at the end of games in 1992, picking up a total of seven saves.

It was all part of a career that spanned 11 big league seasons, not ending until 1996 with the Rockies. It was a career, though, that began back in 1982, taken by the Orioles in the third round of the draft, out of Brentwood High school in New York.

He played that first year in rookie ball, at Bluefield. He made AA Charlotte in 1984, then got his first look at Baltimore in 1985, for two games. He even picked up a win.

For 1986, Habyan played at AAA Rochester, getting another six games in Baltimore. With the Orioles, he went 1-3 in five starts, with an ERA of 4.44.

In 1987, he got into 27 games, 13 starts. Late that September, he even had a role in the AL East pennant race, pitching against the Tigers. He was up to the task, shutting down the eventual division-winners on five hits over eight innings.

"I felt real pumped up out there, going into the eighth inning," Habyan told The Associated Press. "I haven't been in too many situations where something was on the line. It was a different feeling."

Habyan got seven games in 1988, then none in 1989. He was traded mid-year to the Yankees. After six big league outings in 1990, Habyan broke out with the Yankees in 1991 with 66 appearances.

The next year, he got into 56, then 48 in 1993. In that stretch, he saved a total of 10 games, working the rest of the time in middle relief.

After being traded to the Royals mid-year 1993, Habyan arrived with the Cardinals for 1994. He was then traded again in 1995, to the Angels. Habyan's final year came in 1996, getting 19 games with the Rockies.

After his final trade, to the Angels, Habyan quipped to The Los Angeles Times that he knew it was coming, not so much because of anything on the field, but because of observations off it.

"It was the first time in a year and a half reporters had talked to me," Habyan told The Times. "That's how you know a middle reliever is getting traded."

He was still valuable, just not for quotes.

Habyan has gone on to be valuable in other ways, as a high school gym teacher and baseball coach at St. John the Baptist High School on Long Island.

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