NEW YORK -- The scenario was perfect. A big, Colorado-bred right-hander with a knee-buckling heater. A new Goose with a golden arm. The heir apparent even wore number 54.
Brian Fisher was supposed to be the next Rich Gossage.
And in his rookie year in 1985, Fisher faithfully followed the script. He appeared in 55 games for the New York Yankees, averaged almost a strikeout per inning and led American League rookies with 14 saves. But five years later, it's a different scenario. Fisher now works in the sun-baked minor league stadium in Tucson, home of the Houston Astros' Class AAA Toros, hoping to resurrect a career that once held so much promise.
Injuries mounted and Fisher's big league future went past. Over the last two seasons, Fisher, 28, has had four operations: right knee twice, left knee, pitching shoulder.
"I've been doing nothing but rehabbing the last two years," Fisher said.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were not believers. Last year Fisher pitched 14 times: nine with the Pirates, five with the Class AAA Buffalo Bisons.
The numbers were bloated (0-3, 7.94 ERA with Pittsburgh; 3-0, 5.14 at Buffalo) and after the season he was released. But Houston signed Fisher as a free agent on Feb. 1, 1990.
The Toros' gamble is being rewarded. Since his bullpen return, Fisher has been nothing short of spectacular. In 22 innings, he is 5-1 with six saves and a 1.23 ERA.
Fisher credits Toros pitching coach Brent Strom, who had a 100-game big league career beginning with the Mets in 1972, in helping him correct flaws in his delivery and refine his mechanics.
"The fastball is back in the low 90s with movement," said Strom. "His slider is great and he's developing a nice change-up. If he keeps going the way he is, I see no way he won't be a September call-up."