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Yankees send Jonathan Loáisiga to IL, recall Willie Calhoun

As expected, Jhony Brito has also been recalled and Josh Donaldson is out. Tommy Kahnle heads to the 60-day IL.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The moment that news broke yesterday of Jhony Brito starting tonight’s game against the Orioles, it was a sign that something was up. Josh Donaldson was a near-lock to go on the IL with a right hamstring injury, but under the collective bargaining agreement signed prior to the 2022 season, the move couldn’t simply be a straight swap of Brito-for-Donaldson because that would put too many pitchers on the Yankees’ 26-man roster.

Another transaction was coming to both remove a pitcher from the active roster to add Brito for tonight and to add a position player with Donaldson ticketed for the shelf. Now, we have the answer: top reliever Jonathan Loáisiga is hitting the IL as well, with outfielder Willie Calhoun coming up from Triple-A to bolster the bench.

Calhoun wasn’t on the 40-man roster, so Loáisiga’s fellow reliever, Tommy Kahnle, had to go on the 60-day IL. He’s been out since early spring training with a biceps injury, and since he’s been sidelined for most of the last three seasons with other ailments, he’s talked about taking it slow. Now, we know that it will be awhile before we see Kahnle’s full return to pinstripes.

It’s extremely unfortunate to lose Loáisiga as well, as members of the Yankees’ pitching staff have been dropping like flies since the first day of camp back in February. Add Loáisiga to a group that now includes him, Kahnle, Carlos Rodón, Luis Severino, Frankie Montas, and Lou Trivino. The right arm has been a constant source of annoyance for Loáisiga throughout his professional career, so it’s not exactly a stunner to see him out for little while, though normally in the past few years, it’s been the shoulder to take him out. It is worth noting, however, that Loáisiga did have Tommy John surgery back in 2016.

Hopefully, this isn’t perceived as a serious injury for Loáisiga because the Yankees’ bullpen depth is now a little stretched. They still have some very talented pitchers out there in Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, and Ron Marinaccio, but Michael King is off to a bumpy start after missing the second half last year with a broken elbow and while they’ve flashed positive signs here and there, the quartet of Ian Hamilton, Albert Abreu, Jimmy Cordero, and Colten Brewer can only really be described as a deck of wild cards. Still, not to sound like a broken record, but I do want to reiterate my trust in pitching coach Matt Blake. The Yankees can weather this storm; it will simply be something to keep a very close eye on.

As for Calhoun, the former top Rangers prospect looked good at the plate as a non-roster invitee to spring training, when he hit .294/.379/.392 in 21 games. Fellow NRI Rafael Ortega was a little bit better and also offered more with the glove, but he left the organization at the end of camp while Calhoun stayed and reported to Triple-A. He’s still not much of a defender, but he at least offers something more interesting off the bench than the likes of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Aaron Hicks, and Kyle Higashioka.

The Yankees felt comfortable recalling an outfielder like Calhoun despite the third baseman Donaldson’s injury because they already had infield depth. Oswaldo Cabrera can play pretty much anywhere on the diamond, and DJ LeMahieu is capable of covering all infield positions outside of shortstop. Kiner-Falefa lurks as a backup option as well. So while it would have been tempting to recall Oswald Peraza to take some shortstop reps with Anthony Volpe shifting over to second (or vice versa), the Yankees elected to go with a more short-term solution since they don’t see Donaldson’s injury as severe.