Reeling from a poorly-played loss to the lowly Orioles on Saturday, the Yankees were quickly dealt a serious blow to their bullpen on Sunday morning. The team announced that relief ace Jonathan Loáisiga was heading to the 10-day injured list with a right rotator cuff strain. He had a cortisone shot and won’t throw for 10 days, meaning that at this point in the season, the Yankees have to just cross their fingers and hope that he can return before October.
Loáisiga has been about as good a reliever as one could imagine in 2021, finally finding his niche at the Major League level by recording a 2.25 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 1.028 WHIP, and 66 strikeouts in 68 innings of work. The 26-year-old actually tops the FanGraphs relief pitcher WAR leaderboard, neck-and-neck with award-winning Brewers closer Josh Hader.
Manager Aaron Boone has had to turn to Loáisiga (and Chad Green) quite a bit in 2021, and his 68 innings rank among the MLB leaders out of the bullpen. That might have contributed to the wear and tear on his arm, but given the Yankees’ propensity for close ballgames and the desperation to win them after falling into an early-season hole, it’s hard to blame Boone. He’s tried to rest Loáisiga whenever possible, only using him in back-to-back days on six occasions and never three days in a row, so this isn’t exactly a Joe Torre/Scott Proctor situation.
Alas, this is just how baseball goes sometimes, and Loáisiga doesn’t have the best injury history. In fact, this is an injury that he has suffered before, and he unfortunately missed three months in 2019 after that diagnosis. In short, this is a big ol’ bummer.
After bailing his teammates out of so many jams this season, Loáisiga will need his fellow relievers to step up in his hopefully-short absence to keep the Yankees at the forefront of the AL Wild Card race. He’s been carrying the load, and now the likes of Lucas Luetge, Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, and Joely Rodríguez will have to step up. (And that’s to say nothing of Aroldis Chapman needing to put himself back together as soon as possible.)
It’s just too bad that Stephen Ridings isn’t available to replace Loáisiga on the roster, as the 6’8” righty is on the injured list in Triple-A Scranton with an elbow issue. Instead, Albert Abreu will ride that shuttle once again back to the Yankees’ clubhouse. Perhaps Luis Gil could be another option soon as well, though he wasn’t getting promoted today after starting on Friday in Scranton.
Anyway, Abreu is not Brooks Kriske or Nick Nelson, so the team could do a lot worse. It will just be a lot harder to get by without Loáisiga.