New York Yankees Player Profiles: Lucas Luetge, the long road back (video)

Mar 14, 2021; Dunedin, Florida, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Lucas Luetge (63) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays during the fourth inning at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the New York Yankees met up with the Toronto Blue Jays for game 2 of the 2021 baseball season. It was a great day for the Yankees; they won the game 5-3. But for one guy on the team, the day was a dream come true. For the first time in almost six years, Lucas Luetge made it back onto a major league mound. Before yesterday, the last time Luetge was in a major league game was in 2015.

On March 24th, Luetge turned 34 years old, having been born in 1987. He was born in Brenham, Texas, a small town in Texas where half the population comprises college students attending Blinn College. [1] He attended Bellville High School and played baseball for the Owls while attending Rice University.

The Milwaukee Brewers drafted Luetge in the 2008 draft. In December of 2011, he was selected by the Seattle Mariner in Rule 5 Draft. On June 8, 2012, he was one of six pitchers in a not-hit game against the Dodgers. In 2015 he signed a minor league contract with the Angels. In 2016 he again signed a minor league contract, this time with the Cinncinati Reds. The following year he signed with the Baltimore Orioles. His biggest break came in 2019 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He pitched in 55 games with a record of 9-3 with a 2.38 ERA. In December of 2020, he signed a minor-league deal with the New York Yankees.

New York Yankees assistant GM Mike Fishman pursued Lucas Luetge each of the past two years and signed him to a minor league deal this offseason; he said, “A lot of people are talking about him [in camp]. He is opening eyes with how he is performing — and the quality of the stuff, too. He has swing-and-miss pitches.” Luetge has been trying to get from the minors to the majors for the last six years. He did it for just one game back in 2015. He pitched 2 1/2 innings of shutout ball. But his return to the majors has been elusive.

One of the problems holding Luetge back has been his inability to get righties out. However, now late in his career, he is doing just that. 8 of his 13 strikeouts have been against right-hand hitters. Manager Aaron Boone has been gushing over Luetge. When talking about the Luetge slider, he had this to say:

Boone about Luetge’s slider to Sports Illustrated’s Max Goodman, saying “It’s a really good breaking ball, it’s a swing-and-miss breaking ball. He’s got all the spin numbers that take you back a little bit. Even though he’s not overpowering with the fastball, the fastball really plays as well.”

As CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa reports, Boone’s claims ring true through the spring training pitch data. Luetge has radically boosted the spin rate on each of his three offerings to well past the MLB average, especially his slider, giving them a late-life that has left anyone lucky enough to watch him toss in person awestruck.

He came to the Yankees spring training as a non-roster invitee. During the spring, he turned heads, striking out 18 over just 10.1 innings. Even so, it still didn’t appear that he would make the 26 man roster.  As fate would have it, he got his big break when Justin Wilson was injured, and Luetge was added to the roster. Yesterday he got into his first game for the game; he gave up one run in one inning of work, striking out one Blue Jay. Manager Aaron Boone had this to say about Luetge:

“He came into camp and had expectations around him, but there was some really good competition,’’ manager Aaron Boone said. “We could have gone a lot of different ways going into that spot. It’s hard to deny what Lucas has done from the start of camp. He pushed his way onto the roster and I’m excited to see what he can do for us.”

Please make no mistake about it; Luetge will have to work his tail off with good results to stay on the team once Justin Wilson is ready to return. But for the short term, nobody is as happy as he to be on the major league mound again.