For the second time in a few days, the Yankees have made a small move to tweak the back end of their 26-man roster in the early goings of the 2023 season. Bench outfielder Estevan Florial was only with the team for Opening Day before being designated for assignment to make room for new reliever Colten Brewer. Now, another relief arm is in tow in the form of Ian Hamilton. Frankie Montas was transferred to the 60-day IL to make room on the 40-man roster.
Hamilton came to Yankees camp as a non-roster invitee and impressed the team with a cutterish changeup (also registering as a slider, or a “slambio”) that helped the right-hander record a perfect 0.00 ERA in nine spring training innings, notching six strikeouts and three walks.
New York was loathe to part with Hamilton at the end of Grapefruit League play and worked with him to extend his opt-out while they waited for a big league opening.
Hamilton’s MLB career is sparse, spanning just 15 games across three nonconsecutive seasons with the White Sox and Twins between 2018-22, but he also had to overcome a pretty horrifying facial injury on a foul ball that hit his face in 2019. Pitching coach Matt Blake and his crew have established over the past few years that they know what they’re doing, so if they think that Hamilton has a Lucas Luetge-esque renaissance in him, then perhaps he does.
The unfortunate byproduct of Hamilton joining the roster is that Sunday standout Jhony Brito was demoted to Triple-A Scranton to make room for him. The rookie dazzled the Giants with five shutout innings and six strikeouts in his MLB debut, but because he is fifth on the rotation depth chart and the more offday-heavy April schedule allows the Yankees to primarily use four starters for a little while, the team wanted him to stay on track in the minors rather than sitting in the bullpen.
Brito has to be down for 15 days to be recalled unless an injury occurs. In that time, the Yankees would need a fifth starter on Wednesday, April 12th in Cleveland, but not again until Saturday, April 22nd against Toronto. So the Yankees decided that for most of April, they’d rather have the extra arm in the ‘pen. If rain (or injury) hasn’t interrupted the plans, the smart money has New York going with a bullpen game on the 12th or briefly calling up someone like Deivi García or Matt Krook to spot start. The bright side for Brito is that he impressed enough to surely return soon.