Over 162 games a lot can happen. Points of weakness will inevitably arise and cause an impact, while points of strength will be tested. The old adage says that you can’t ever have enough pitching and more to that one of the reasons why any and virtually all attempts at six-man rotation have been shortlived in MLB, is that injuries and other extenuating circumstances tend to force a team’s hand. Look at the Padres this year, for instance.
As we head into the final days of May, the Yankees are hitting on all cylinders. Gerrit Cole has hit some bumps along the road, and Luis Severino’s outings have been a little more volatile than most fans would want, but beyond that, the rotation has been excellent. None of the five rotation members have missed their turn as of yet.
Cole, Cortes, Montgomery. Severino and Taillon are responsible for 37 out of 38 starts for the New York Yankees this season. The one instance in which a different hurler took the ball was on May 12th when Aaron Boone gave the task to Luis Gil for his first appearance on the big league club this season. The Yankees were in the midst of a long stretch of consecutive games with no off-days and the rotation needed a breather. Luis Gil fulfilled the exact role that was expected out of him entering the season, the role of a spot starter.
The Yankees sent Gil back down to the minors after that start, and during his latest Triple-A appearance, he felt something in his arm and left the game. After further examination, the decision has been to opt for Tommy John surgery. This sudden development means that Gil is out for the rest of 2022, and probably a significant part of the next season as well. There are two implications about this matter, one in regards to the player and the other to the organization as a whole.
Gil has only 33.1 innings of experience in the big leagues as of right now. The young arm out of the Dominican Republic came over to the Yankees from the Twins in a rather low-profile trade, for Jake Cave. Gil didn’t enter the 2022 season with a set role on the big league club, his status was already in flux. Gil was supposed to be that spot starter that every organization has, the sixth-man on the rotation that fills in whenever someone goes down.
The young right-hander flashed in his six starts in 2021, which earned him this opportunity. The Yankees rotation got off to a great start, which kept Gil off the big league mound for as long as it did, but this unfortunate injury now puts a lot of uncertainty into Gil’s future. The organization is unlikely to give up on him so quickly, but at the same time, this was the last year with options for Gil. If the Yankees want to use his 40 man spot they’ll have to move him to the MLB 60 day IL, and once he returns next year he’ll either need to stay with the big league club or be exposed to waivers.
Gil may have not been with the big league club at the time of his injury, but he had a role with the team. His number was likely to be called upon again at some point soon. As of right now, the Yankees won’t feel the impact of his injury since they don’t need a sixth starter when all five are working well and healthy, but that could change in the blink of an eye. What are the Yankees’ options for the sixth starter role with Luis Gil out for the year?
Clarke Schmidt seems like the likeliest man to fill that role currently in the active roster, but there are a couple of new questions that come with his selection to be a spot starter or even the fifth one in case a significant injury happens. Michael King is not the only Yankees reliever used in high-leverage situations for multiple innings — to a lesser extent, that’s how Schmidt has been deployed and with pretty good success. Who would fill in for Schmidt’s role in that scenario? Would it be a combined effort from the entire ‘pen?
On top of that, Schmidt’s season-high in pitches thrown is 54 over 3.1 innings against the Tigers. He would need a few appearances to get fully built up before taking on a starter’s workload, something that could be worked on while he’s still down in the minors. Deivi García is struggling again so it’s unlikely that they would go to him even though he’s the most experienced in the majors out of those on the 40-man roster that are currently in the minors. JP Sears could be an option as well.
There are couple of pitchers that are doing well in the minors that would require a 40 man move to be brought up to the big leagues, but could force it due to their success so far. Hayden Wesneski has pitched to a 2.31 ERA in 39 innings in Triple A, and Ken Waldichuk has allowed only four earned runs in 28.2 innings in Double A ball before a recent promotion to Triple-A. Still, those two are more likely only going to be realistic options by midseason at the earliest.
There’s less concern for the big league team to figure out who the their top choice to be their spot starter would be than to figure out what they’d do if one of the current starters went down. That being said, there’s a layer of uncertainty now that so far hasn’t been present on this roster. Whichever direction the Yankees go here, it would be best if it isn’t necessary to come up with the answer right away.