The Yankees didn’t need to wait for Dellin Betances to bolster their bullpen.
While Betances is throwing bullpen sessions this week, and moving closer to returning from a lat strain that, along with a shoulder impingement, has kept him out all season, the Yankees added depth by reinstating 24-year-old right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga from the 60-day injured list, prior to Tuesday’s game against the Orioles.
Loaisiga, who had been out since May 13 with a right shoulder strain, has made 13 appearances (seven starts) with the Yankees over the past two years, while posting a 4.89 ERA. Aaron Boone said he is planning on using the right-hander largely in long relief.
“We’ll see how these next few weeks unfold. Not necessarily,” Boone said when asked if Loaisiga would make any starts. “There could be a spot where he does start. I think he can be a real weapon for us right now out of the pen in a multi-inning role, and that’s how we see him right now.”
Following a three-month absence from the field, Loaisiga made three rehab appearances before returning to The Bronx. The right-hander pitched two shutout innings for Double-A Trenton, then allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In his final tune-up, Loaisiga threw three scoreless innings, while striking out four and allowing one hit.
“His ceiling is very high. Obviously, [he has] an electric fastball, breaking ball, changeup, feel with three pitches,” Boone said. “I think he has the ability to throw strikes, but that is the key. Sometimes, maybe getting a little too fine. I’ve seen in some outings where he kind of rides that pitch count up, maybe being a little too fine, but I feel like he has a chance to give us some meaningful innings out of the bullpen because his stuff can be so electric.
“He’s throwing the ball well. He’s healthy and strong. Definitely can give us multiple innings out of the bullpen right now.”
The wait was long, but so much shorter than what the undersized Nicaraguan has endured in prior seasons. After debuting in the minors in 2013, Loaisiga missed all of 2014 and 2015 due to injuries. In 2016, he pitched in one game, then underwent Tommy John surgery.
“I feel really good right now,” Loaisiga said. “I feel 100%. Back to being healthy.”
And back at the best time of year.
Loaisiga threw five scoreless innings in his major league debut last year, and held a 3.00 ERA through his first four outings, but struggled as a September call-up — posting a 10.80 ERA — and was left off the Yankees postseason roster.
This year, the right-hander once referred to as a “young Mariano Rivera” — by Rays manager Kevin Cash — could make the team’s already elite relief corps even stronger.
“I’m so excited and happy to be back here, back in this clubhouse, back with these guys here,” Loaisiga said. “Anytime you go through an injury, and get back to a team like this, get your health back, it’s exciting. Understanding where the team is today, understanding what the future holds, it’s exciting to be here and be part of this team.
“I’m ready to pitch. It doesn’t matter if it’s the bullpen or starting the game, I’m here to help. I’m here to contribute. I’m here to help out in any way possible.”
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