|Jonathan Loaisiga in the dugout on Friday night. @Yankees.|
In his Major League debut on Friday night, Yankees starting pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga had a superb outing to earn the win in their 5-0 victory over Tampa Bay.
The 23-year-old Loaisiga, a native of Managua, Nicaragua, was called up from Double-A Trenton to make this start in place of Masahiro Tanaka.
Loaisiga, who never pitched above Double-A in his minor-league career, was originally signed by San Francisco as a non-drafted free agent in September of 2012, and signed by the Yankees a minor league free agent on February 9, 2016.
In 10 starts with Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, Loaisiga went 6-1 with a 3.00 ERA. He pitched 45 innings in the minors, allowing 15 runs, while walking just four batters and striking out 58. He had a 11.60 K/9.0 innings pitched ratio.
Loaisiga is the 15th Nicaragua-born player, including the 11th pitcher, in Baseball history. He is the fourth player born in Nicaragua to appear in a Major League game this season, joining Kansas City's Cheslor Cuthbert, Seattle's Erasmo Ramirez, and the Angels' JC Ramirez.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said on Thursday afternoon of why Loaisiga was given the call up, "I know what I got to see from him in spring training, and just being around him. There's just an easy way about him. I think he's really talented. I think he's going to be a really good pitcher in this league. I think there's a, swagger's not the right word, but I think there's just a presence about him. There's a humility that he walks around with, but I also believe there's a confidence that he's unaffected by anything going on around him.
"I'm excited to see him pitch here. It's a guy with a really good arm, really simple athletic delivery, and I think a big reason why he's the guy that we chose is we feel like his stuff is excellent, but I feel like his delivery and everything is low maintenance enough that it should allow him to step up here and be representative, I think."
Loaisiga was given number 38 by the Yankees, a sign they expect him to be here for the foreseeable future.
It was evident from the start that he has that clear, over-the-top motion Boone talked about on Thursday, which allows him to pitch around the plate with pinpoint control.
Loaisiga also features an explosiveness when he releases the ball that is evocative of Mariano Rivera, who came up to the Yankees as a starter in 1995 before transitioning to the bullpen the following season and eventually became the greatest closer ever.
It is the same distinct delivery from Loaisiga on every pitch, whether it's a fastball, which he had coming in around 96 miles per hour, or his offspeed stuff, which was around 86 mph. That is lethal for hitters to try and determine what pitch is coming in.
Loaisiga opened the game by walking Matt Duffy, but settled in by striking out Jake Bauers and getting Wilson Ramos to hit into a double play.
In the second, he struck out the side around a walk, and in the third, he walked former Yankee Rob Refnsyder to open the frame, then got Johnny Field to hit into a double play before getting Duffy to ground out to end the inning.
The Yankees got on the board in the third when Didi Gregorius launched a home run into the second deck in right off Tampa Bay starter and former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi to make it 1-0 and give Loaisiga a lead to work with.
The fourth was when Loaisiga hit some adversity after opening the frame with a strikeout of Bauers. Ramos laced a single to right, and got to second on a groundout.
Willy Adames singled to right, but it got out there so fast, and with the rocket arm of Aaron Judge, Ramos was held at third base. and Mallex Smith walked to load the bases, which brought a visit from Yankees pitching coach Larry Rotschild.
That settled down Loaisiga and he struck out Christian Arroyo to get out the jam.
In the fifth, Refnsyder flew out to right field, Field singled to center, Duffy grounded into a fielder's choice, and Bauers grounded out to second.
That was the end of the night for Loaisiga, who kept the Rays off the board for five innings and allowed just three hits and four walks, with six strikeouts. He threw 91 pitches, 57 of which were strikes, a very good ratio for any pitcher, let alone a guy making his MLB debut.
Loaisiga is the seventh Yankees pitcher since 1908 to record at least 5.0 scoreless innings in his first career game and only the fifth Yankees starter to do so.
He joins Sam Militello as the only Yankees since 1943 to record the feat (as a starter or reliever). Militello threw seven innings in his debut on August 9, 1992 against Boston.
With Domingo German earning his first Major League win on Thursday night against Tampa Bay, and Loaisiga repeating the feat on Friday night, they became the first Yankees pitchers to record their first career wins in back-to-back games since Chase Wright, Kei Igawa, and Sean Henn won back-to-back-to-back games from April 17 to 19, 2007.
Loaisiga could be just the jolt this rotation needs as they have lost Jordan Montgomery for the season, and Masahiro Tanaka is out for a while with the hamstring injuries suffered last week.
In a season marked by the performances of phenoms Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar on the offensive side of things, Loaisiga can electrify Yankee Stadium on the mound.