Surplus in rotation 'good problem to have'

August 25th, 2021

As the Yankees rolled to 10 consecutive wins entering Tuesday’s contest against the Braves, their starting rotation has been a guiding force. It might seem long ago now, but at the beginning of August, that rotation was missing two key contributors: and , each of whom spent nearly two weeks on the COVID-19 injured list.

During that time, -- the club’s No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- captivated New York. In the first three starts of his big league career, the 23-year-old right-hander tossed 15 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out 18 batters in a historic run.

Gil is the only Major League pitcher since 1893 to toss at least 4 2/3 scoreless innings in each of his first three career appearances, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And the 15 2/3 scoreless innings to open his career are the most by a Yankee in the Expansion Era (since 1961), surpassing Joba Chamberlain’s 15 1/3.

But when the Yankees announced their probable starting rotation for a big four-game series against the fellow American League Wild Card contending A’s in Oakland that begins on Thursday, Gil’s name was nowhere to be found. He will instead be making his first start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre since July 27 on Tuesday night against Lehigh Valley while the Yanks finish up their two-game trip to Atlanta.

That may seem like a curious decision on the part of the Yankees’ organization -- even though Cole and Montgomery have returned to action -- but manager Aaron Boone explained the club’s reasoning before the game.

“Look, we have five guys in our rotation that are making starts right now, and in a lot of ways, you’d have to get rid of one of ‘em to have [Gil],” Boone said. “And I don’t know if that’s the smartest thing to do right now, especially when we are getting a lot of really good starts.

“Obviously Luis came up here and pitched really well and has put himself in that mix and in that conversation, but … [we’re] trying to hold on to some depth, especially not knowing what you’re going to need down the stretch.”

As the final month of the Yankees’ regular season draws near, their starting rotation will only grow more crowded. As things stand, , , and are all slated to rejoin the team from the IL in September.

That means, despite how much success Gil had in his spot starts, there simply isn’t enough room for him at the big league level. And until that changes, the Yankees are eager to see what he can do with consistent outings in the Minors.

“We’re all really excited about who he can be as a starting pitcher, but in a lot of ways, he’s also still developing in a big way.” Boone said. “[It’s] important that he continues to build on the consistency that he needs to show to reach that level that we all think he can get to.”

Germán to the 'pen?
Gil’s role isn’t the only one that could conceivably change in weeks ahead. With the maneuvering the Yankees are expected to do when those pitchers return, Boone acknowledged as much when referencing Germán’s timeline. The skipper insinuated that there is a reasonable chance Germán will not return to the rotation spot he vacated on Aug. 1, but could instead come out of the bullpen.

“We’ll see what our needs are,” Boone said. “Good problems to have, but things we’ll have to sort out and see what’s best for everyone and for us moving forward.”

That possibility could be made more likely depending on the news the Yankees receive on Zack Britton, who went on the 10-day injured list with a left elbow sprain on Monday. The southpaw is still in the early stages of testing, but Boone admitted that surgery is not off the table for the reliever.

Germán has made three relief appearances so far this year -- all in July -- and pitched to a 7.50 ERA with seven strikeouts in six innings. He is 4-5 with a 4.25 ERA in 18 outings as a starter this season.

Asked if there’s concern about how moving pieces around could affect the Yankees’ rhythm during this red-hot stretch, Boone gave a clear-cut answer.

“No,” he said. “Guys have trickled back in during this streak. We’ve been playing well for well over a month now this goes back to, and people have come in and come out. The more good people we can get on board, we’ll take that.”

This date in Yankees history
Aug. 24, 1988: Trailing the A’s, 6-2, entering the bottom of the ninth inning, the Yankees used seven singles and a three-run homer from Ken Phelps to rally for a 7-6 walk-off victory. Rickey Henderson delivered the winning hit that scored Luis Aguayo with two outs.