When Zack Britton went down in August 2021 with a torn UCL and Tommy John surgery on his docket, he was hopeful that he could work his way back to the majors in time for the 2022 playoffs. To his credit, the former All-Star endured the grueling rehab, and after eight appearances in the minors, the Yankees were ready to give him a shot with expanded rosters for the final month. Britton was activated on September 22nd, completing a comeback worthy of praise.
Sadly, it now seems like Britton tried to come back too soon. In three games, he just never had any command. The 34-year-old lefty walked six of the nine batters he faced, recorded just two outs, and after uncorking a wild pitch to score the eventual game-winning run last night, he departed from the outing alongside the training staff with what the Yankees later announced as “left arm fatigue.”
This morning, Britton landed on the 60-day injured list. His season is over.
To put it plainly, this is a big ol’ bummer. I really liked what Britton offered to the Yankees’ bullpen from 2018-20 as a groundball machine, and he was a popular guy in the clubhouse, too. But after an injury-riddled 2021, his 2022 isn’t ending much better. That will likely do it for his Yankees career, as he’s due to hit the free agent market again, and if he wants to continue pitching, it probably won’t be in the Bronx. Best of luck to him.*
*Unless Britton ends up on an AL East rival, of course. Maybe a reunion with Baltimore is in the future.
The Yankees made an unusual decision on paper to replace Britton in the bullpen and on the 40-man roster. The 32-year-old right-hander Jacob Barnes has been activated and will join New York today. He was a solid relief option when he came up with the Brewers in 2016-18, but he’s pitched poorly since then. In 102 games since the start of 2019, he has a 6.48 ERA, 5.04 FIP, and a 1.53 WHIP. Although Barnes has fanned a batter per inning and has a modest cutter, his HR/9 is 1.6 and his walk rate sits at 21.8 percent. He bombed out of the Tigers’ bullpen this year and had made 10 appearance with Triple-A Scranton after signing with New York on August 30th.
I’m not sure why Barnes was chosen over Greg Weissert, who was demoted when Scott Effross was activated on September 22nd. As Peter noted in his piece on the roster move, the rookie had pitched decently enough with a fun whirly slider to boot, but he didn’t get the call here. Neither did Miguel Castro or Albert Abreu; although both are on the IL, they had been rehabbing until the minor league season ended and the team had previously said that they were “good to go.” (As an aside, Clay Holmes is out for the remainder of the regular season but will not go on the IL because he would then be unavailable for the ALDS.)
I only have two guesses:
1) Barnes is only hanging around today due to the ugly weather and the Yankees’ hesitance to use one of the other three pitchers who they actually care about.
2) Weissert, Castro, and Abreu aren’t as healthy as the Yankees have advertised.
Another possibility floated on Twitter is that the Yankees are indeed planning to activate Matt Carpenter from the 60-day IL for the series in Texas, and designating Barnes for assignment will be easier than disposing of one of those three relievers from the active roster. That seems like it could very well be in the offing.
Regardless, Barnes will be on the roster this afternoon and barring something disastrous, he will not be involved in the playoff picture.