In the clubhouse before Saturday’s game, Aroldis Chapman said he would pitch again on Sunday and join the active roster shortly after. He faced three batters in a Double-A game Friday night, recording one strikeout and needing just eight pitches to get out of the inning. Aaron Boone was asked if the closer’s plan for himself was realistic.
“I think so. Last night was a quick outing for him, not a lot of pitches. I’m excited to be with him and see where we are. But yeah, I think it’s realistic. Let’s move on through [Sunday] and see what we have, then go from there.
Jonathan Loaisiga also kicked off a bullpen on Saturday morning. Last year, Loaisiga had a career year at 26, posting a 2.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 2.4 wins over substitution, making him one of the best relief pitchers of all baseball. This year things have been a nightmare for him. While his takedown rate increased slightly, his walk rate more than doubled. Loaisiga has walked just 16 batters in 2021, or 5.7% of the total batters he has faced. This season he has already walked 10 guys (13.7%).
One of every manager’s biggest pet peeves is a relief pitcher who comes in and instantly makes things worse, and walks are a one-way ticket to that dreaded area. Everyone looks good when throwing a bullpen, but Boone said Loaisiga looked and felt so good the team had to remind him it was just practice.
“Good to see Lo there today,” Boone said. “I thought he looked good for his time back on the mound. We had to slow it down. I think he felt so good that we had to say, ‘Okay, take it a little slower.’ But he looked really good. It’s obviously very exciting.
Boone said Loaisiga isn’t that close to a rehab assignment just yet, as he’ll still need side sessions and live batting practices before heading into a minor league game. Chapman and Loaisiga are the two injured relievers on everyone’s mind, as their injuries arose about a month ago and both are back with the team. But Domingo German, who hasn’t hit the big time at all this year, is also on his way back.
The German made a three-inning start for the Yankees’ Single-A affiliate in Tampa on Wednesday, allowing just one hit but failing to put out anyone. While the German can certainly be a starter and has a track record, he makes a lot more sense as a bullpen for the major league team whenever he finds full health. With him, Chapman and Loaisiga all approaching their return dates, the Yankees bullpen will soon be transformed.
“Those are three potentially very impactful guys that we’re adding to the mix,” Boone said. “But we also want to stay patient and make sure they tick all the boxes they need to come back. We know how important they are going to be for us this season.
Outside of Clay Holmes and Michael King, two of the best in the business, the Yankees currently rely on Ron Marinaccio, Miguel Castro and Wandy Peralta to close the gap between starters and their top relievers. Although all three of them are good pitchers, and Marinaccio in particular has really impressed lately, the team should and probably will feel a lot better when Chapman, Loaisiga and German get a seat in the bullpen again. .
With the Astros in town, Boone got his first opportunity of the year to meet Houston manager Dusty Baker. As the defending American League champion, Baker will lead the AL team to the All-Star Game this summer. The Yankees legitimately have six or seven guys with cases to be in the game. Boone isn’t playing favorites, but he had a few unnamed people in mind he’d like to see make it to Los Angeles for the Midsummer Classic.
“On some level I’d be thrilled for anyone, especially some guys who could potentially go there for the first time, it’s pretty special,” Boone said. “It’s great to have a lot of guys worth considering. I’d be quite happy to see a number of guys get that opportunity.
One of those potential starters is career backup Jose Trevino, a defensive-minded receiver who turned into an all-around hitter with .806 OPS. Among AL catchers with 100 plate appearances, Trevino ranks second to Toronto’s Alejandro Kirk in WAR, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Boone was asked directly about Trevino’s campaign.
“I think he should be there because of his offense,” Boone said. “Considering who he is defensively, you know, I hope I don’t have to say too much.”