After being selected with the Yankees' first pick in the 2007 draft, and immediately undergoing Tommy John surgery, then being set back in his rehab by an emergency appendectomy, 6 '10 Andrew Brackman will finally throw his first professional pitch tomorrow night for Waikiki in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League.
And how fitting that Brackman's debut comes in a week when the Yankees mourned the passing of Yankee Stadium and then the end to a 13-year playoff run that, more or less, kick-started auditions for the 2009 season, particularly the unpredictable starting rotation.
While the unofficial beginning may have launched on Wednesday night in righthander Phil Hughes' sizzling start against the Blue Jays, it's Brackman who strikes the opening salvo to the Yankees' offseason.
Of course, that he has not pitched since May 2007 places Brackman on the longshot list to crack the Yankees' Opening Day roster. But given the drama of the past summer with the big league rotation, Brackman could work his way into the picture at some point next year.
If his path sounds familiar, it is. Joba Chamberlain made his pro debut in Hawaii in 2006, and it was more or less the same that year for Ian Kennedy, who made one late-season start after signing before heading to the islands.
First, however, Brackman has much to prove, and not just to make up for lost time. The Yankees have tweaked his wind-up, incorporating a hands-over-the-head approach, and a changeup is now in Brackman's arsenal.
It could be an even more menacing approach from a pitcher who is a listed 6-foot-10, 240 pounds and was touching 96 mph in a recent intrasquad game.
"We want to see Brackman get his feet on the ground," farm director Mark Newman said, listing off a number of benchmarks the Yankees hope he meets, including getting a feel again for pitching and even changing speeds with his arsenal. "If he's doing that, we'll be happy. The competition's great, so the numbers won't mean a lot to us."