When Yankees general manager Brian Cashman met with the media during the team’s final spring training game on Monday, he settled all the Opening Day roster questions except for one. The team had yet to decide on who they would pick to replace Justin Wilson, who will be out until at least next weekend recovering from tightness in his left shoulder. There seemed to be a heavy favorite in the room, but Cashman wouldn’t reveal the 26th man just yet.
That answer presented itself during the Yankees’ workouts at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, as reliever Lucas Luetge threw with his fellow pitchers in the outfield. Shortly afterward, manager Aaron Boone confirmed the news: Luetge had made the cut. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Yankees transferred Zack Britton to the 60-day injured list. He had elbow surgery to remove bone chips in early March and was expected to be out until potentially June anyway, so the move makes perfect sense.
It’s been quite the journey for Luetge, who just turned 34 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since April 25, 2015. Since then, he’s pitched in over 150 minor league games across five organizations, underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017, and spent 2020 as an afterthought at the Oakland A’s alternate site. When the Yankees signed him to a minor league deal with an invitation for spring training back in December, it was almost entirely unreported. Even in the first week of camp, we felt pretty comfortable keeping him in the red on our Making the Team Meter.
However, the Yankees’ front office clearly saw something in Luetge that caught their eye, regardless of how long it had been since he pitched in The Show. As noted by Cooper in his season preview post on Luetge earlier today, the southpaw showed off some impressive spin rates throughout spring training, dazzling with a fastball and slider:
Luetge struck out 18 batters in just 10.1 innings of work in camp, walking just two batters with an ERA of 1.74. Sure, it was the exhibition season, but it’s hard to make hitters whiff that much in such a short span of time.
The injuries to Wilson and Britton have opened the door for Luetge to complete his comeback story. Now, the onus is on him to take advantage of the opportunity.