The Yankees’ rotation, while a big part of the reason the Yankees have surged to the front of the American League East, has seen better days — or rather, healthier days. Already missing staff ace Luis Severino, the Yankees have watched James Paxton, Jonathan Loaisiga, and CC Sabathia make trips to the injured list. There’s no guarantee we will see any of them in the near future, either, as Loaisiga has been sent to the 60-day IL with a rotator cuff strain, Paxton continues to feel knee discomfort, and Sabathia’s barking knee will always be a concern.
All this puts the rotation as Domingo German, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and....that’s about it. Chances are, former top prospect Chance Adams will fill one of those spots (pun intended) as needed, though it looks like Paxton should hopefully come to reclaim his slot in the coming week. But what about the other spot? Luis Cessa has starting experience, yet does not look like a primary option, as he has been used exclusively out of the bullpen so far, and the team has preferred bullpen days over having Cessa start when short on starters. Albert Abreu, meanwhile, is too far away, at Double-A Trenton. Injuries have shattered the team’s starting pitching depth.
Enter David Hale. The 31-year-old right-handed journeyman might seem an unusual solution, considering that he has not started at the big league level since 2015. But not only has Hale been starting for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders this season, there are signs that he could be a useful piece for the ballclub.
In six starts at Triple-A and one appearance in pinstripes, Hale has cut down on his walks and upped his strikeout rate, leading to a 16.4% K-BB%, higher than the league average of 14.1%. He has done this on the back of a fastball that has jumped in velocity, from 92.2 mph last season to 95.0 mph, and occasionally touching 96. While these stats do not necessarily jump off the page, they suggest an ability to approach or achieve league average production — something the Yankees could definitely use.
Even so, Hale on his own is not exactly a perfect solution; he has only been averaging about five innings per start in Scranton, and should not be expected to go deep into ballgames. With this in mind, the Yankees would be wise to pair him with an opener — perhaps Cessa — to minimize the amount of times he would have to deal with the top of the order. Unlike other starters, his relief experience will mean that coming out of the bullpen as a follower would not throw him completely out of his rhythm, and might in fact help keep him in his routine and allow him to excel.
Injuries have placed the Yankees in a tough spot when it comes to their rotation. The presence of David Hale, combined with a little bit of creativity, could help the team stay afloat while they wait for the main rotation pieces to return.