The decision to go to Jimmy Cordero instead of Jonathan Loaisiga in high-leverage in their loss to the Baltimore Orioles suddenly adds up, as the Yankees announced he’s on the 15-Day IL with right elbow inflammation. While we don’t know the severity of his elbow injury, Loaisiga’s health is definitely in question. He spent a large chunk of the 2022 season on the IL with shoulder issues, but when he returned he was lights out. On top of the Loaisiga news, the Yankees announced that they were transferring Tommy Kahnle to the 60-Day IL, but in his case, this seems a lot more precautionary than anything else.
With Kahnle/Loaisiga likely not a factor in the near future, the Yankees’ depth will be tested once again.
Navigating Through Mounting Injuries for the Yankees
The Yankees have an elite-level reliever in Loaisiga when he’s going right, but the injury history is certainly concerning. He’s had time on the IL every year of his career at the Major League level, dating back to 2018. While the hope is that Loaisiga could be back soon, the Yankees still have plenty of information they’d like to get in regard to his health and the severity of his injury. Any elbow inflammation is scary since you immediately think of Tommy John Surgery and the extremely important UCL ligament when you hear ‘elbow’ with pitchers.
There is plenty of uncertainty regarding his injury for now, which will likely be cleared up when Aaron Boone has his presser and discusses what’s going on with the Nicaraguan Nightmare. As long as it’s not longterm, the Yankees should be able to weather that storm. As for Tommy Kahnle, a 60 Day IL sounds scarier than it actually is. His injury was retroactive to March 27th, meaning he can be activated on May 26th. A lot of this relies on the speed of Tommy Kahnle’s recovery, but if he throws as he was scheduled to prior to these news, then it’s likely that this was a move made to open up a roster spot on the 40-Man.
The Yankees also had to get a position player on the roster in order to call up Jhony Brito, as Major League Baseball prohibits teams from rostering over 13 pitchers at the same time, and they had a short bench. The bullpen on paper looks weak, but with arms like Ian Hamilton and Jimmy Cordero flashing high-level stuff, they should be able to hold down the fort until some of the bigger names return. Lou Trivino is throwing already, although I would anticipate because of his injury being elbow-related, he’ll take a slower route to recovery. It’s possible he returns to start May, which would be a huge boost for the bullpen.
On top of this, Carlos Rodon is set to face live batters soon, and while we don’t know when exactly he could return, the Yankees would be able to move an arm like Clarke Schmidt to the bullpen. Schmidt has struggled mightily as a starter in his career, but as a reliever he’s kept an ERA of 3.22, with a 2.77 ERA as a reliever in 2022. While his new cutter hasn’t blossomed him into the top-line starter he aimed to become, he could use that new pitch to become an even more effective reliever.
Jhony Brito toes the slab against the Orioles tonight, and if he builds off of an excellent debut against the Giants, the Yankees could use Brito/German as their 4 and 5 starters, with the better option remaining after Severino returns. Matt Krook and Greg Weissert are also on the 40-Man Roster, and both have been lights out in Triple-A to start the season. The Yankees certainly have enough arms to weather the storm for now, but that hinges on their injured arms staying on schedule with their rehabs.
The Yankees play the Orioles at Camden Yards at 7:05, with Brito again auditioning for a permanent job in the rotation. With the injuries to their pitching staff they may not be as quick to demote Brito, unless they believe Rodon is on his way back sooner than expected, as the lost off-day in Baltimore creates new challenges for the rotation. The Yankees don’t have an off-day until April 17th, meaning they’ll need a 5th starter a third time this month, but hopefully by then Rodon will be nearing his return.
Injuries are a constant with baseball, and the Yankees are no exception to this rule. It’ll be a challenge for skipper Aaron Boone to figure out which arms are ready to handle high-leverage, but they’ll need arms at the backend of the bullpen to step up.