In the clubhouse prior to Saturday’s game, Aroldis Chapman said he will throw again on Sunday and rejoin the active roster shortly thereafter. He faced three hitters in a Double-A game on Friday night, recording one strikeout and needing only eight pitches to get out of the inning. Aaron Boone was asked if the closer’s plan for himself is a realistic one.
“I think so. Last night was a quick outing for him, not a lot of pitches. I’m excited to get with him and see where we’re at. But yeah, I think that’s realistic. Let’s get through [Sunday] and see what we have, then go from there.”
Jonathan Loaisiga also threw a bullpen on Saturday morning. Last year, Loaisiga had a career year at age 26, posting a 2.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 2.4 Wins Above Replacement, making him one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball. This year, things have been a nightmare for him. While his strikeout rate has actually ticked up slightly, his walk rate has more than doubled. Loaisiga walked just 16 hitters in 2021, or 5.7% of the total hitters he faced. This season, he’s already walked 10 guys (13.7%).
One of every manager’s biggest pet peeve is a relief pitcher who comes in and instantly makes things worse, and walks are a one-way ticket to that dreaded zone. Everyone looks good when throwing a bullpen, but Boone said that Loaisiga looked and felt so good that the team had to remind him that it was just practice.
“It’s good to see Lo out there today,” Boone said. “I thought he looked great for his time back on the mound. We had to slow him down. I think he felt so good that we had to say, ‘Alright, go a little easier here.’ But he looked really good. That’s obviously really exciting.”
Boone did say that Loaisiga isn’t that close to a rehab assignment yet, as he’ll still need some side sessions and live batting practices before he gets into a minor league game. Chapman and Loaisiga are the two injured relievers at the front of everyone’s mind, as their injuries happened roughly a month ago and both are back with the team again. But Domingo German, who hasn’t pitched in the bigs at all this year, is on his way back too.
German made a three-inning start for the Yankees’ Single-A affiliate in Tampa on Wednesday, allowing only one hit but failing to strike anyone out. While German certainly can be a starter and has a track record of being one, he makes much more sense as a bullpen piece for the major league team whenever he gets back to full health. With him, Chapman and Loaisiga all nearing their return dates, the Yankees bullpen will soon transform.
“Those are three, potentially really impactful guys that we add to the mix,” Boone said. “But we also want to stay patient and make sure they check all the boxes that they need to to get back. We know how important they’re gonna be for us this season.”
Outside of Clay Holmes and Michael King, two of the best in the business, the Yankees are currently relying on Ron Marinaccio, Miguel Castro and Wandy Peralta to bridge the gap from the starters to their best relievers. While all three of them are fine pitchers, and Marinaccio in particular has really impressed as of late, the team should and likely will feel much better when Chapman, Loaisiga and German have a seat in the bullpen again.
With the Astros in town, Boone has had his first opportunity of the year to visit with Houston manager Dusty Baker. As the defending American League champions, Baker will manage the AL team at this summer’s All-Star Game. 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 who he’d like to see head to Los Angeles for the Midsummer Classic.
“On some level I’d be thrilled for anyone, especially some guys that potentially would be going for the first time, that’s pretty special,” Boone said. “It’s awesome to have a lot of guys that are deservingly in consideration. I’d get pretty tickled to see a number of guys get that opportunity.”
One of those potential first timers is Jose Trevino, the career backup, defensive minded catcher who’s blossomed into a complete hitter with an .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 based on his offense,” Boone stated. “Considering who he is defensively, you know, hopefully I don’t have to say too much more.”