Yankees trying to turn bullpen arm into starting pitcher

michael king, yankees
Jun 26, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael King (34) follows through on a pitch against the Houston Astros during the tenth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are facing challenges with their pitching staff that has them scrambling to adapt bullpen arms into starters. With several injuries and inconsistencies plaguing the team, the Yankees are looking for creative solutions.

Injury Crisis: Cortés and Rodon

With Nestor Cortés’ likely season-ending left rotator cuff strain and Carlos Rodon’s hamstring injury, the Yankees are forced to rely heavily on younger players. These injuries have decimated the rotation, leaving the Bombers to seek supplemental support.

Recent Games Against the Miami Marlins

In the past two matchups against the Miami Marlins, Randy Vasquez and Jhony Brito have featured, but the Yankees have sought to bolster their efforts with openers. Regrettably, Ian Hamilton struggled on Friday, while Michael King had a tough outing on Saturday afternoon.

Michael King: From Relief to Starter

The Yankees are contemplating moving King back into a starting role this season, but his performance, giving up two earned runs, four hits, and a homer across two innings of work, hasn’t inspired confidence.

“There are a lot of times where I can provide some length to this team, and if I’m only going up to 45 (pitches), it’s not my full potential,” King lamented.

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The Yankees Relying on Youth: A Double-Edged Sword

The Yankees find themselves in a predicament as they do not want to lean solely on their younger arms, who have experienced inconsistencies this season. While Vasquez has been commendable with a 1.89 ERA this year, Brito’s performance has been mixed, currently standing at a 4.76 ERA across 62.1 innings.

The Opportunity for King: A Long-Term Prospect?

Manager Aaron Boone has expressed that the chance to promote King is on the horizon, though it’s still uncertain if this means a long-term opportunity.

“It’s more of — if it presents itself,” Boone explained. “What are the needs (of) tomorrow, the next day and the next day? Does it put him in line to be in play for something like that again?”

The journey for King to become a potential starter may take time, paralleling Clarke Schmidt’s path. The transition is advantageous, especially financially, but it brings risks considering King’s significance in relief and his history of a severe elbow injury.

“He’s just been so valuable, but as we’ve gotten some guys back to our bullpen, having obviously some injuries in our rotation, it makes a little bit of sense,” Boone said before Saturday’s game.

King’s Metrics: Potential Asset as a Starter

King’s pitching repertoire, including a sweeper, sinker, four-seam fastball, and change-up, has demonstrated promise. Particularly, his sinker, with a .235 batting average against and a 34.5% put-away rate, and his sweeper, used 34.3% of the time, generating a 41.8% whiff rate and 23.5% put-away rate. His rankings in the 97th percentile in average exit velocity allowed, 82nd percentile in strikeout rate, and 84th percentile in whiff rate further add to his appeal.

These numbers indeed suggest that King could be a valuable asset as a starting pitcher. However, the transition will be prolonged, and obstacles will undoubtedly arise during this phase. The Yankees’ decisions in the coming weeks will be crucial in shaping their pitching landscape for the remainder of the season.