Thursday, April 25, 2019

Loaisiga, With Win Over Angels, Proves He Belongs In Bullpen

Jonathan Loaisiga warming up earlier this season. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees made another late-inning comeback on Wednesday night in Anaheim, as they came from five runs down to stun the Angels, 6-5, for their sixth straight win.

Jonathan Loaisiga earned the win in relief as he threw three shutout innings to earn his first win of the season. He allowed just two hits and a walk with one strikeout, and he threw just 45 pitches, 29 of which were strikes.

The 24-year old right-hander from Venezuela has primarily been used as a starter by the Yankees, and when he was called up on Monday, the thinking was that he would start Tuesday night to give the starters an extra day's rest as the Yankees are in a stretch where they're playing 13 straight days.

That plan changed when the Yankees had to burn threw their bullpen in a 14-inning win on Monday night against the Angels.

This meant that the starters would go on their normal rest, including CC Sabathia on Wednesday.
Sabathia, who has been superb in his first two starts this season, was touched up for five runs (four earned) on six hits and no walks, with three strikeouts, in five innings. He allowed three home runs as the Angels built up their 5-0 lead.

In the top of the sixth, the Yankees got on the board when DJ LeMahieu got an RBI double and then scored on a passed ball to make it 5-2 Angels.

Loaisiga came on in the bottom of the sixth and kept the Angels right there, allowing the Yankees offense to continue to come back.

The Yankees tied it up at 5 in the seventh when Tyler Wade earned a walk with the bases loaded, 
LeMahieu hit a sacrifice fly, and then Mike Tauchman snuck in past a throw from Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons, on a groundout from Luke Voit, for the tying run.

In the ninth, LeMahieu singled to right, scoring Wade to make it 6-5 Yankees.

Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman worked around a walk in the bottom of the ninth to earn his fourth save of the season.

The biggest takeaway from this game was that the Yankees might have found their savior in the bullpen in Loaisiga on a day that they sent down Chad Green.

Green was demoted after he gave up a grand slam in the eighth inning to Justin Bour of the Angeles in a 7-5 Yankees win on Tuesday night. Before that, on Sunday, He came on in the eighth inning with the Yankees up 5-0 on Sunday against the Royals at Yankee Stadium, and allowed two hits and a walk without recording an out. This sparked a six-run inning for the Royals. The Yankees came back to win, 7-6, in 10 innings.

In 10 games this season, Green has allowed 14 earned runs and 15 hits, including four home runs, and four walks, with seven strikeouts. His ERA is 16.43.

Loaisiga made two starts earlier this season, to similar results. On April 3 against the Tigers, he allowed one run on one hit, with four strikeouts, but lost his control in the fourth when he walked three Tigers. On April 9 at Houston, he lasted just three innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks, with five strikeouts.

The first thing you notice watching Loaisiga is that his stuff is explosive, and he has a unique wind-up where he rears his arm all the way back before firing.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said on April 3 of Loaisiga, “The stuff, it obviously leaps off the page, you know, and a guy that didn’t have great command in spring training, and we feel like he’s the type of pitcher that’s going to be a strength of his. Even with the great stuff, we feel like he has a delivery that he should be able to repeat. We feel like the athleticism of his delivery should lend itself to having command, so that’s the biggest thing. If he can command his pitches and have the ability in different counts of throwing all his pitches for a strike, then he can be a really tough customer.”

Loaisiga's explosive motion is evocative of Mariano Rivera and Octavio Dotel, who both came up to the Majors as starters and eventually were turned into relievers. Tampa Bay Rays Manager Kevin Cash made the comparison to Rivera after Loaisiga stifled the Rays' hitters in his Major League debut last June.

Rivera became the greatest closer of all-time, racking up 652 saves and becoming the first unanimous entry into the Hall of Fame this past January.

Dotel had a 15-year career in which he became a pretty reliable reliever and was always in demand, as he pitched for 13 teams. Dotel's career began with the Mets and included a stint with the Yankees, but he is most known for the five years he spent with the Houston Astros from 2000 to 2004 when they were a consistent playoff team.

The Yankees should take this as a sign that Wednesday night's three innings in relief could be a turnaround for Loaisiga.

Careers are turned on things like this, and the fact that the Yankees needed him in the bullpen more than making another spot start could be his happy accident.

SENT TO  SCRANTON: Follwoing Wednesday's game, the Yankees optioned Loaisiga to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Prior to Wednesday's game, they recalled fellow reliever Joe Harvey from Triple-A and placed outfielder Clint Frazier on the 10-day injured list retroactive to Tuesday with a left ankle sprain.

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