Long Island-born right-handed pitcher Nick Tropeano agreed to a minor-league deal with the New York Yankees on Wednesday, Jan. 8 that includes an invitation to spring training, according to multiple sources.
The 29-year-old West Islip hurler made his name as a prospect during his time pitching at Stony Brook University, posting a stellar 12-1 record with a 1.84 earned-run average (ERA) in his 2011 junior year and becoming a two-time All American. Tropeano was drafted that same year by the Houston Astros in the fifth round, and made his major-league debut with the team during the 2014 season.
Notably during his time in the minors, Tropeano received credit for what is possibly the only one-pitch strikeout in the history of professional baseball. Tropeano notched a first-pitched strike on then-Midland RockHounds third baseman Vinnie Catricala, who stepped out of the batter’s box to protest the call. In accordance with an obscure rule, the umpire awarded Catricala another strike for his out-of-the-box protest, and eventually gave him one more for his continued violation, causing the plate appearance to end in a strikeout.
In each season from his 2014 debut to 2016, the ascendant Tropeano started more games, pitched more innings, recorded more strikeouts and posted a lower ERA than he had the year before, first for the Astros then later for the Los Angeles Angels following a trade. His career took a downward turn in 2016, however, when a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) forced Tropeano to undergo Tommy John Surgery. He missed the entire 2017 season while recovering from the operation, and since his return has amassed a 5-7 record in the majors to go along with a 5.52 ERA. In the 13.2 innings he pitched during the homerun-happy 2019 season, Tropeano surrendered six long balls in one start and two relief appearances, posting a 9.88 ERA before being sent down to the minors.
This spring, Tropeano will look to impress his way into a spot on a major league roster for a team that already has six starting pitchers under contract, including the recently signed Cy Young Award runner Gerrit Cole. In 2019, the Yankees had just two starters, James Paxton and the now-suspended Domingo German, post an ERA below the MLB average for the year while starting more than 20 regular season games. Their 4.31 staff ERA was the 14th highest in the league. The only team with a higher ERA that made the playoffs was the Milwaukee Brewers.