Lefthander Graeme Lloyd was the only member of the Yankees to celebrate the team's world championship by renting a beach house on the west coast of Australia and jumping into the Indian Ocean—a body of water he couldn't have hit with one of his pitches last August. Lloyd spent the off-season in his native country bodysurfing, boogie boarding, snorkeling and bringing tranquility to a life that, he says, had been "completely uprooted." No worries, mate.
"One of the Australian magazines wrote, 'It's good to see an Australian doing well in an obscure sport,' " says the 29-year-old Lloyd. "I think there were more people who turned out for the parade in New York than know about baseball in Australia. I'm anonymous there. I don't mind at all."
Lloyd had been similarly anonymous in the U.S. until the Brewers traded him to the Yankees on Aug. 23. Unbeknownst to New York, Lloyd's left elbow was sore, and he took a cortisone shot nine days before the trade. He pitched so poorly—during 13 regular-season appearances with the Yankees he had a 17.47 ERA—that on Sept. 24, New York filed a grievance claiming Milwaukee had shipped the Yankees damaged goods. "It was the toughest period of my life," Lloyd says.
Manager Joe Torre didn't bother using Lloyd for 17 days after a terrible outing on Aug. 29. The rest, though, allowed Lloyd's elbow to get better. That Torre even bothered to include Lloyd on the postseason roster prompted Yankees fans to vigorously boo him before Game 1 of the Divisional Series against the Rangers. Says New York reliever Mike Stanton, then with the Rangers, "You couldn't miss it. He got booed louder than any of us."
Says Lloyd, "I knew my elbow had started to come around the last couple of series of the season. I was ready to show what I had."
Though the Bronx can be a tough place, it couldn't break Lloyd, the son of a sheep shearer who grew up on a farm and served as an electrician's apprentice before leaving Australia for a career in American baseball in 1988. He faced 15 batters in the postseason and retired all but one, while not allowing a run. By the final game of the World Series, a 3-2 win that Lloyd helped preserve when he retired Ryan Klesko on a sixth-inning pop with two runners on, Yankees fans had adopted him as something of a cult hero.
This season Lloyd and his surgically repaired elbow figure to play a more prominent role. With Mariano Rivera inheriting John Wetteland's closing job, New York's pen must pick up the 107? innings Rivera threw, mostly as a set-up man. No one was more responsible than Rivera for the Yankees' 70-3 record when leading after six innings. Lloyd, whom righthanders pasted for a .303 average in 1996, will be charged with retiring lefthanders in critical late-inning spots. "After what he went through last year, and pitching the way he did at the end, he's somebody you want out there in a tough situation," Torre says.
As for the grievance the Yankees filed, Lloyd's October surprise rendered it moot.
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