By Dylan Butler
It was a situation that had “nervous” written all over it as College Point native Steve Karsay made his Yankee Stadium debut in the Bronx Bombers home opener Friday.
For the Christ the King product, the lifelong dream of pitching in pinstripes became a reality when the righty middle reliever signed a four-year, $22.25-million contract in December.
And in front of a sellout crowd of 55,771, with the Yankees leading the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4-0 in the seventh inning, Karsay entered the game after a masterful two-hit performance by starter Andy Pettitte.
But Karsay wasn’t nervous.
He’d already gotten the Opening Day jitters out of the way in Baltimore, when he made his less-than-stellar Yankees debut in a 10-3 loss at Camden Yards last Monday. In one inning, he gave up two earned runs on two hits, walked two and struck out one.
“It was the first time in a Yankees uniform in Baltimore on Opening Day and that’s when I got nervous,” Karsay said. “I’m glad [Yankees manager] Joe [Torre] and [pitching coach] Mel [Stottlemyre] were able to get me in an 8-3 game that didn't really mean that much.”
Against the Devil Rays, Karsay allowed just an eighth-inning infield hit to Jason Tyner in two innings of scoreless work. Lefty Randy Choate pitched the ninth inning to help preserve Pettitte's shutout.
The key, Karsay said, was getting back to basics.
“I stayed tall, over the rubber and I threw the ball downhill,” he said. “Jorge [Posada] and I were on the same page and made some quality pitches.”
Even if Karsay hadn’t pitched in Baltimore, he was too tired to be nervous Friday. Following Thursday night’s 4-1 win, the team’s charter didn’t arrive in New York until 1 a.m. and after picking up his car from the Stadium and driving to his midtown apartment, Karsay said he didn’t get to sleep until 4 a.m.
Four-and-a-half hours later, he was back at work.
“That we got in so late and that it’s been so hectic, you don’t realize the magnitude of what’s going on,” he said. “You’re just trying to focus. When you’re a little tired and not too energetic, you tend to focus a lot more and get the job done.”
It’s been a hectic first week, even by Steve Karsay’s standards. Still living out of boxes in the same midtown Manhattan apartment building that houses Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Karsay and a few teammates got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Pentagon last Wednesday.
That night Karsay made his second straight appearance in relief of starter David Wells, who gave up just four hits in 7.1 scoreless innings.
With the tying run on second base and one out in the eighth, Karsay got Jerry Hairston to fly out before Torre brought in lefty Mike Stanton, who retired lefty Chris Singleton in the Yankees 1-0 victory.
Following a brief three-game home stand against Tampa Bay, the Yankees are right back on the road for eight games against division rivals Toronto and Boston.
“It’s a wild week so far. Unfortunately we had to turn around and play a day game after a night game on the road,” Karsay said. “We have three day games at home and then we have to go on the road for eight so you don’t really get to take care of business at the house here because it’s over the weekend. I think once everything gets settled, we’ll be a little bit more intact.”
Karsay has been to Yankee Stadium on Opening Day before, as a member of the Oakland A’s in 1997, but he hadn’t played as a member of the home team there since his senior year at Christ the King.
After pitching the semifinal game, Karsay played first base in the Royals 2-1 loss to Xaverian in the Catholic city title game at Yankee Stadium.
His high school catcher, Port Authority police officer John Reilly, was also there for Karsay’s Yankees home debut Friday, as part of a intimate group of family and friends.
“I wanted to keep it small,” said Karsay, “My main priority here is to on the field and produce and get people out.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.