Yankees News: Bullpen reinforcements on the way, closer shift incoming

New York Yankees, Domingo German
Jul 18, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Domingo German (55) reacts after allowing a solo home run to Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Yandy Diaz (not pictured) during the first inning of the first game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees sustained several injuries to the bullpen a few weeks ago, including Chad Green, Jonathan Loáisiga, and Aroldis Chapman. Green’s season is over after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but Loáisiga is preparing to make a come back after struggling with shoulder inflammation. Chapman was seen participating in a few simulation scenarios before Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium, indicating he’s also making his way back.

Yankees making progress with Domingo German:

One pitcher could end up playing a role in the bullpen this year after rehabilitating from a shoulder injury. 29-year-old Domingo German is fighting his way back for a spot on the roster, but the Yankees are gearing him up to feature as a potential starter.

“Possibly,” manager Aaron Boone said prior to Tuesday’s game. “We’ll see as we get that plan going after this next live.”

The Yankees will have German throw a three-inning session against live batters in the minors to determine his progress. It is possible they see him as a middle-inning relief pitcher who could take the game to the closer, which would be a huge benefit for the bullpen. Considering how well the starting pitchers have performed this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see German work his way through the bullpen and help supplement the back end of the rotation if need be.

Domingo pitched 98.1 innings last year, recording a 4.58 ERA with 8.97 strikeouts per nine and a 70.1% left on base rate. German’s fastball velocity is down 1 mph compared to the 2018 season, so it isn’t out of the realm he can get back to where he once was.

In addition, manager Aaron Boone stated that Chapman is making progress as well.

“Good to see him back out there. I think he looks good, he looks healthy,” Boone said. “I’m kinda getting with Chappy and (Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake) to see what we got. Hopefully the next step and starting to face live hitters.”

Chapman struggled before going down with Achilles tendinitis several weeks ago. The 34-year-old veteran closer is sitting with a 3.86 ERA this season over 14 innings. However, upon his return, Chapman’s role could change significantly given the emergence of Clay Holmes.

A big change at closer might be coming:

When the Yankees traded for Clay Holmes from the Pittsburgh Pirates, they didn’t imagine he would steal the closer spot away from Aroldis Chapman, a future Hall of Famer. Holmes, 29, is sitting with a 0.30 ERA over 29.2 innings this season. He hosts a career-best 95.7% left on base rate and 81.9% ground ball rate. He’s throwing a sinker 81.4% of the time at 96.8 mph. He’s also incorporating a slider into the mix. His sinker is simply unhittable for most batters.

It is possible that Boone moves Holmes back to a setup man role, but the way he’s pitching indicates full steam ahead as the primary closer.