Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Yankees Look To Loaisiga To Build On Last Season's Big Debut

Jonathan Loaisiga facing Detroit's Miguel Cabrera in the first inning Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Jason Schott.

When pitcher Jonathan Loasiga made his debut with the Yankees last June, he immediately drew comparisons to Mariano Rivera with his explosive, direct delivery.

The Nicaragua native, the first player from that country in Yankees history, made his debut in a start on June 15, 2018 by shutting out the Tampa Bay Rays for five innings, allowing just three hits, with six strikeouts and four walks.

Loaisiga was just the second Yankee since 1943 to throw five shutout innings in his major league debut. Sam Militello was the first, as he threw seven shutout innings against the Red Sox on August 9, 1992.

Afterwards, Tampa Bay Manager Kevin Cash made the comparison to Rivera.

Loaisiga made three more starts, including one in which he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning at Philadelphia on June 25th. 

Following a start against Atlanta on July 2 in which he allowed three runs on five hits in four innings, he missed two months with an injury before making five relief appearances in September.

In spring training this season, he went 2-1 with a 6.75 ERA, as he allowed 13 runs (12 earned) on 13 hits (4 home runs), with 18 strikeouts and 7 walks in 16 innings.

Loaisiga was brought up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday morning to start the season finale against the Detroit Tigers.

"My expectations are he's going to go out and pitch well for us," Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of the 24-year old righthander on Wednesday afternoon ahead of the game, "We've watched him, feel like he's ready for this. He got in last night, obviously, so looking for him to put his best foot forward and, hopefully give us some quality innings and give us a chance to end this homestand on a good note."
Boone said of what he saw of Loaisiga in the spring, "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 started off strong, with strikeouts of Josh Harrison and Miguel Cabrera in the first inning. He worked around a leadoff double to Niko Goodrum to open the second inning, and through three innings, he faced one over the minimum.

The Yankees got him a run in the third inning when DJ LeMahieu doubled and scored on a single from Aaron Judge.

In the fourth, Loaisiga lost his control as he walked Nicholas Castellanos, Goodrum, and Jeimer Candelario. Christin Stewart hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field to score Castellanos and tie it at 1.

Loaisiga struck out John Hicks to end the fourth inning, and that was it for his day.

The final line for the young right-hander was: 4 innings pitched, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 earned run, 3 walks, and 4 strikeouts, 70 pitches (41 strikes).

"I thought he pitched well," Boone said of Loaisiga's performance. "I thought, obviously, he ran into some trouble where he lost the strike zone a little bit there, threw a lot of pitches in the fourth inning there, and would have liked to get him a little bit deeper in the game. 
"Bottom line is he made pitches, kept the scoring down, left having given up only one run, giving us a chance. A little bit mixed results-wise, just losing his command a little bit in the fourth, but gave us a chance to win."

Detroit's Matthew Boyd outdid Loaisiga, as he threw a gem, going 6 1/3 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits, with 3 walks and 13 strikeouts.

Gordon Beckham, Detroit's ninth-place hitter, homered off Chad Green in the 8th to make it 2-1, and that was the final, giving the Tigers the series victory.

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