After more of the same struggling, it’s time for a change. After a 3-1 loss to the Rays, their third straight defeat, the Yankees were in serious discussions about calling up prospect Estevan Florial and putting struggling closer Clay Holmes on the injured list.
“We haven’t decided anything for certain yet. We’ll talk through some things. So there could be some things we decided to do but nothing is final yet,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the Bombers’ latest loss.
Since the All-Star break, the Bombers have gone 8-17. The Rays (62-53) handed the Yankees their fifth straight series loss and cut the Yankees’ lead in the American League East to nine games. It’s just the second time since June 15 that the Bombers lead in the division has been under 10 games.
“It’s a little different, but it’s still stressful and you never want to lose. No one in here is happy about it, but having a little bit of a cushion helps but that cushion can dwindle quick,” Aaron Judge said. “So we got to stay on top of it. Guys are putting the work in, guys are showing up, they’re doing their thing. So it’s just about going out there on the field and performing.”
They tried sitting struggling center fielder Aaron Hicks Monday night and they did snap a 22-inning scoreless streak, but they got the same ultimate result.
Almost certainly, Holmes will head to the injured list. The closer, who has not pitched since he blew the game Friday night, admitted that he has been dealing with a back issue.
“Kind of locked up on me a few days ago and tried to go again today and it kind of tightened back up, so we just felt it was the smartest thing, the best way to go about it was just try to maybe give it a break,” Holmes said. “We’ll see and play smart and not try to push it through something that maybe it could be a lot worse than what it is.”
In his first 38 games, Holmes pitched to a 0.46 ERA, walking six in 39.1 innings pitched. Over his last 11 appearances, he has allowed 11 earned runs and walked 10 in 9.2 innings pitched.
Still, Holmes has not pitched in four games and the rest of the Yankees pitching has been solid. Tuesday night, Nestor Cortes threw seven solid innings, allowing a three-run homer in the first and not issuing a walk, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Yankees’ impotent offense.
They did score their first run since the ninth inning of Saturday night’s game.
Andrew Benintendi tripled off the right-center field wall with one out in the fifth. He came around and scored when Yandy Diaz bobbled Miguel Andujar’s ground ball. It was the first time the Yankees had scored a run since the ninth inning of Saturday night’s game.
But the offense that was once rolling over teams has been struggling. The Yankees have scored nine runs over their last 61 innings, spanning seven games.
“We’re all frustrated. But you can’t let the frustration get in your way of preparing and getting ready to go every night. We got a few guys that are in a rut. We gotta prepare and get ready and find our way out of it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s part of it. And it’s no fun when you’re going through it but that’s where we are right now.”
And desperate for a spark, they could be bringing up Florial, the 24-year old former top prospect who has power and speed. In Triple-A, he is hitting .286/.368/.490 with an .858 OPS, 32 stolen bases and 14 homers in 89 games. Florial, who has had issues with pitch recognition in the past, has struck out 124 times in 353 at-bats and drawn 45 walks.
A scout who saw him this season said he thought Florial has improved “significantly” this year and that his at-bats are more competitive than in past years.
“I got a chance to play with him in spring training. He’s the guy that always wants to learn. He’s a hard worker who does the little things to help his team. So if that’s true that he’s coming up here, I don’t know, I haven’t heard that. But if it’s true, it will definitely help us out,” Aaron Judge said.
It’s unfair to ask Florial, who has hit .206/.325/.353 with a .678 OPS, a home run and two stolen bases in 40 major league plate appearances, to turn this slide around, but at this point the Yankees have to change something.