Yankees close to getting back top lefty bullpen arm from Tommy John surgery

The New York Yankees need all the help they can get in the bullpen after losing Michael King last week to a fracture right elbow. In his place, manager Aaron Boone has deployed Ron Marinaccio and Albert Abreu to help smooth over his loss. Even relief pitcher Clarke Schmidt has received increased opportunities, but the Yankees don’t have anyone on the roster who can replicate King’s production and efficiency this season.

General manager Brian Cashman will have to target a bullpen arm at the trade deadline on Tuesday if he wants to upgrade the unit, but the Yankees do have one lefty option returning from Tommy John surgery.

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What can Zack Britton do for the Yankees upon his return?

Veteran relief pitcher Zack Britton underwent Tommy John surgery on September 8, 2021. He was placed on the 60-day injured list on March 13 of this year, missing 103 games up to this point.

However, Britton is gearing up to face live hitters for the first time in a simulated batting practice this upcoming week. He’ll have to face batters several times before making the transition to a rehab assignment.

He likely features with Somerset and then elevates to Scranton in Triple-A before making his way back to the majors. So far, Britton is doing well with his rehabilitation but his showing against live hitters will give us a better idea of a timetable for his return.

The 34-year-old lefty pitched 18.1 innings last season, recording a 5.89 ERA. He only pitch nine innings in 2020, with his last full season coming in 2019, pitching 61.1 innings. Britton’s best season came back in 2019, hosting a 1.91 ERA, 3.59 xFIP, 7.78 strikeouts per nine, an 87% left on base rate, and 77.2% ground ball rate.

Zack is a sinker/slider pitcher, generating a .206 batting average against in 2019 with a 23.5% WHIFF rate and 17% put-away rate. It is unlikely he’s able to replicate those statistics three years later coming off a major injury, but the Yankees may be able to extract some value down the stretch.

Manager Aaron Boone is optimistic he can contribute, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

“I don’t want to put an expectation on it. He’s doing well. He’s about to get to the live-hitter portion of the of the rehab and return, so we continue to be encouraged. But what it all means? We’ll just we’ll wait and see.”