On Tuesday, the Yankees transferred Jonathan Loaisiga to the 60-day injured list to make room for the acquisition of Kendrys Morales. Earlier in the week, the Yankees also added infielder Breyvic Valera (read more about him here). With another injury to the rotation and the addition of only infielders, we are left to figure out who will be the fifth Yankees starter until James Paxton returns from the injured list.
Since we know Brian Cashman can pull off a quick trade to fill-in a necessary spot like he did with Cameron Maybin, that possibility should always be under consideration. Until then, Luis Cessa appears to be the top internal option (he was originally slated to start for Loaisiga on Tuesday when the injury was announced). We may have gotten used to Cessa in the bullpen, but this is an opportunity for him to showcase that he can be a starting pitcher once again.
Over the last three Yankee seasons, Cessa has been used as a spot starter and has made five or more starts each year. With no options remaining for Cessa in 2019, this is his last chance to prove that he should stick with the Yankees. He pitched well during spring training, and has pitched well out of the bullpen this season. Now he can prove himself as a starter, too.
Luis Cessa’s Arsenal
Earlier this season I wrote about how Cessa’s slider was one of the main reasons why he was performing well out of the bullpen. Average spin rate for his slider has improved each year since 2016. He is using it more than ever this season, and it’s currently his most effective pitch against hitters. A few weeks ago, colleague Brock Hammond wrote about how Cessa has been using his four-seam fastball less frequently and has introduced a sinker. Cessa has pitched more effectively, but to be a starting pitcher he needs to be stretched out.
Since Loaisiga struggled to give the Yankees length during his outings, the bar is set pretty low for Cessa. However, his longest appearance this season was 3.1 innings against the Orioles on March 31st. The last time he consistently pitched six innings in the big leagues for the Yankees was back in 2016.
Cessa pitched three innings on May 8th against the Seattle Mariners, and went 3.1 innings on March 31st against the Baltimore Orioles, for his two longest appearances of the year. We have to look all the way back to 2016 when Cessa was able to pitch six innings consistently for the Yankees.
In a season where Yankee players continue to step up, Cessa may get chance to do the same as a starter. Or maybe just as important, he will get the chance to show the Yankees that Loaisiga should be in the bullpen instead of him. It’s unclear how long the Yankees might need to replace Paxton in the rotation, but it’s not the worst idea to see if Cessa can transition from reliever back to starter. Injuries keep happening and no one knows if Cessa could be used for this role more throughout the season. It has worked out well for Domingo German, after all.