The Yankees have one of the most dominant bullpens in all of baseball, and they could very well see themselves improving this strength come September.
The Bombers could slide Domingo German, one of their most productive starting pitchers of the season, into a relief role because of an innings limitation. One of their best prospects could make a bullpen cameo in Deivi Garcia. On the injury front, Dellin Betances is making progress, and Jonathan Loaisiga is also working on his return to the mound. As Loaisiga has continually battled injuries as a starting pitcher, the organization could ease him back with a trip to the bullpen.
Brain Cashman is currently looking for another starter to improve the rotation, and that would be a welcome addition considering the possibility of not having German or perhaps Luis Severino as starters at season’s end. With Severino recently cleared for a throwing program, some have speculated about whether the Yankees ace would even have enough time to stretch out his arm in order to return to the rotation. Aaron Boone mentioned that the Yankees plan on having Severino work towards the rotation. If that’s not the case, though, he could end up in the bullpen.
Even after German missed about a month with his hip injury, the Yankees will be cautious with his innings total. Consider what Boone said of the right-hander earlier this week, per James Wagner:
But we also feel like with Domingo, no matter what our team is like moving forward, depending how much volume he gets to, he can fill so many pretty exciting roles for us — whether it’s as a starter or a guy that can give you multiple innings in a key spot out of the bullpen or a high leverage spot late — you feel good handing him the ball. So right now, he’s in a really good place.
There is no doubt the Yankees would to have Severino and German in the rotation. If they both wound up in the bullpen, though, the Yankees will suddenly be able to shorten games drastically. That’s quite the silver lining.
The ability of Severino and German to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen could prove to be a positive factor in an unfortunate situation. During the playoffs, teams hope not to see a long reliever enter the game because it usually means the starting pitcher has dug himself into a hole. With Severino and German in the bullpen, however, Boone would have the option to hook any starter in trouble in the game’s early innings.
Back in 2016, when Severino was last a reliever, he pitched to a 0.39 ERA with a 9.6 K/9 rate over 23.1 innings. Last season, when German was used out of the bullpen, he pitched a total of 17.1 innings resulting in a 3.12 ERA and 11.94 K/9 rate. This is not to say both right-handed starters will immediately be Betances-like arms coming out of the bullpen, but they do clearly possess the tools to dominate.
Top prospects in Garcia and Loaisiga could offer the same skillset. Even though they will be considered secondary options behind a long list of exceptional Yankees relievers, both could benefit from pitching in the bullpen late in the season. For Garcia, he could introduce himself to major-league competition, and limit his 2019 innings in the process, as he prepares to be part of the Yankees’ primary pitching depth come 2020 and 2021. Loaisiga could showcase himself as a possible reliever since he has not been able to stay healthy as a starter.
Elsewhere, Chad Green has consistently been tasked with pitching two innings for the Yankees this season, whether he is opening a game or coming in as a reliever. With so many possible starting pitchers joining the Yankees’ bullpen and adding length, Betances could focus on making one-inning appearances once he returns. He could ease back into his high-leverage role without pressure to ever get more than three outs.
By the end of the year, the Yankees shouldn’t have to ask the likes of Nestor Cortes Jr., David Hale, and Luis Cessa to provide length. Each one of these pitchers have had their moments this year, but their roles very well could be handed to others.
Come September the Yankees could essentially have a super bullpen that is deep in high-end, multi-inning flamethrowers. The subsequent benefits it could have on the rotation are numerous. Games could be salvaged before getting out of hand, and pitchers like CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ, who often toss around five innings, won’t wear down the bullpen. If another starting pitcher were to get injured, the Yankees will have numerous options to cover the innings. With the way recent Octobers have looked, having Severino or German or Loaisiga available in sticky situations would present advantages as well.
If the front office does add another starting pitcher to solidify the starting rotation, a frighteningly deep bullpen might form itself after the trade deadline.