For Abreu, the start marked more then just a fill-in start; it marked the start to a new season. After missing all of the 2005 season with a stress fracture in his right elbow, Abreu took the mound again recently after the RiverDogs' rotation had been depleted by injuries to Garrett Patterson and Jason Stephens.
"I was happy to pitch since it was his first time pitching since last year," said Abreu with the help of Juan Velazquez regarding his first RiverDog start. "I was a little nervous, had a little butterflies going. After his first inning, I felt calm and relaxed."
Abreu added, "I was very happy with my first start with Charleston."
In his 4.1 innings pitched in his first start of 2006, Abreu allowed only three hits, walked two, and struck out six. Maybe more importantly, he left the game healthy and without giving up a run.
"He pitched a good game the other day, looks like he throws a lot of strikes," said Coach Aldred.
Finally healthy, Abreu looks to add to the RiverDogs' success. Abreu has an 89 mph fastball, a curveball, and a changeup in his pitching repertoire.
Abreu's new teammates are also happy to have the right-handed starting pitcher on the team.
For Abreu to have success with the RiverDogs, he will need to stay healthy.
"One of my goals is to stay healthy this year and not get injured," said Abreu, "and to maintain that consistency on the hill."
"They told me it was a fracture," recalled Abreu. "I wore a brace for eight weeks. I don't know why it happened. There was just pain, and so I had MRI. And then they told me it was a fracture."
With that injury completely behind him, Abreu is healthy and ready to come back to have a successful year.
"My elbow is perfect and I'm not feeling any pain or anything."
Recovering from the injury was a long process for Abreu, but he has come out of it and hopes to continue to move forward in the Yankee organization. Abreu considered his rehab, "good and smooth."
"I feel the injury slowed me down a little bit, I was having a good season that year. It was kind of hard for me to accept it because I felt strong and good. I'm back to 100%, and I feel I can do the job I did back in 2004."
Back in 2004, Abreu had a career year. He started the season with six games in the rookie league and had an impressive 1.46 ERA with 14 strikeouts to only two walks in his 12.1 innings pitched.
Abreu's success lead to a promotion to the Staten Island Yankees where he showed he was up for the challenge. With his 7 games in Staten Island, Abreu struck out 47 batters to just six walks in his 27.2 innings pitched, and he once again had an impressive ERA at 1.63. His impressive strikeout-to-walk is one reason he has had a lot of success.
"My location of fastball," Abreu told PinstripesPlus.com, "and having a good curveball are my biggest strengths."
That successful combination he had to start 2004 would only carry over to his next promotion, up to Tampa. With the Tampa Yankees, Abreu made three starts, struck out 15, walked six, and had a 1.06 ERA. During his Tampa stay, Abreu also had what he considered his career highlight.
"My career highlight is my complete game with the Tampa Yankees." It was not just a complete game for Abreu; it was a complete game shutout.
For Abreu to return to that form, it will be a matter of being consistent and locating his fastball.
For Abreu, his most recent start showed exactly that, as in his 4.2 innings, he gave up two home runs, eight hits and five runs. But for a guy that has a history of coming back, one would expect him to recover well and return to his consistent form. Consistency in location is something that Abreu prides himself in, and because of that, his outings where he does get hit hard are few and far between.
"I'm a consistent pitcher. I can consistently come out and throw strikes, and give the chance to give [the] team a chance to win games."
Abreu does however continue to work hard to make sure his arm does not become re-injured, as he works to stay healthy to help out his teammates and the Yankee organization.
"I'm doing a lot of arm exercises and weight training, a lot of band exercises for my arm."
For those that do not know who Erick Abreu is, you may also know him as Erick Antigua. Actually the New York Yankee media guide even refers to him by the latter name.
"They were using my mother's last name," said Abreu on the name change. "And I went out and changed it. I wanted to use my father's last name. My parents are separated. I want to go by Abreu, but both are my last names. One is just my maiden last name."
"He's ready to pitch whenever he wants, he's just a very good pitcher," said Rojas.
For Yankee fans, one can only hope that he can return to his 2004 form, and continue to move up that ladder and become that pitcher some once thought he would be, and return to form.