The Yankees may have a bullpen problem brewing

yankees, Clay Holmes

The New York Yankees have lost two of their last three games, which isn’t a big issue considering they’re the first team to reach 50 wins on the season and have a 12-game lead in the AL East. In fact, they’ve lost no ground over the past three games, retaining a six-game cushion over the New York Mets in all of baseball.

However, fatigue is starting to settle in for some players, as we saw with Nestor Cortes on Tuesday, having his first tumultuous outing of the year. Cortes insists he feels great and could reach 150-170 innings of action this year, but the Yankees are taking a cautious approach. Boone will look to manage his workload, but giving up three homers in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday was a rarity.

“Maybe that comes into play a little bit today, where he’s struggling to find it a little bit,” Boone said after Cortes’s tough start. “I’m not just going to push him through to navigate a heavy outing like that. I think Nestor’s in a good place where we’re certainly mindful of it, but at the same time, he’s going out and doing what he does. He’s going to routinely get us through those middle innings.”

The bullpen should be the concern for the Yankees right now:

The team’s starting pitching has been solid nonetheless. The bullpen could be facing a few issues down the road if they don’t get a bit healthier soon.

This past weekend, relief arm Ryan Weber decided to hit free agency instead of accepting an assignment to Triple-A Scranton. Pitching coach Matt Blake is excited about the potential return of Jimmy Cordero, but the Yankees really need Jonathan Loáisiga and Aroldis Chapman back at full health to help supplement fatigue.

Against Tampa Bay on Monday, star closer Clay Holmes struggled, giving up two hits and one earned run over 0.2 innings pitched. The Rays have been especially difficult this time around, but we haven’t seen Holmes go through any troubles this year, indicating the bullpen might be hitting a wall without much support.

Boone needs to do a bit of housekeeping:

Overall, field manager Aaron Boone needs to do a bit of housekeeping with his bullpen, doing some load management and making sure his top guns aren’t overused. Luckily, Michael King has returned to his normal self, allowing just one hit over 8.1 innings of action in the month of June. In May, King gave up 15 hits and nine runs over 16 innings, which was unusual given his hot start.

With the All-Star break coming up on July 19, the Yankees just have to get through the next month before they can enjoy a few days off.

Expect to see several low-leverage relief arms like Ron Marinaccio receive more playing time. Marinaccio has been stellar this month over 8.2 innings pitched, giving up just one hit and striking out eight batters. The New Jersey native has been efficient, garnering a bit more action. Given he’s only pitched 16 innings this year, he will likely get a lot more work over the next few weeks to help keep Holmes and King well-rested.

Boone is expecting to get Chapman and Loaisiga back soon, but both were struggling before leaving due to injury. Loaisiga features a 7.02 ERA on the season, dealing with shoulder inflammation the past few weeks. Given he finished the 2021 season with a 2.17 ERA and 60.9% ground ball rate, we know he’s capable of picking up the slack upon his return.

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