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Scott Effross’ return to the Yankees’ bullpen offers cautious optimism

Barring any setbacks, the Yankees sidearmer will be making his long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery in 2024.

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

While the Yankees were linked to reliever (now starter) Jordan Hicks before he signed with San Francisco and are currently associated with Hector Neris, it’s important to point out that there is an underrated arm who wasn’t part of their MLB bullpen mix in 2023 and is almost flying under the radar.

He is on the roster and targeting a return to the pitcher’s mound once spring training begins in February. His name? Scott Effross.

The 2022 Trade Deadline seems like a long time ago at this point, but Effross was a fun addition at the time, coming over from the North Side of Chicago in exchange for prospect Hayden Wesneski. Effross was incredible during that 2022 campaign, with a 2.54 ERA in 56.2 frames between the Cubs and the Yanks. Sadly, that year would end with a couple of heartbreaking injuries.

After the Cubs dealt Effross to New York on August 1st, he pitched eight games in pinstripes before going down with a right shoulder strain in late August. He had to miss more than a month, returning on September 22nd. Just a few weeks later, on October 11th, it was announced that he would not make the Division Series roster due to an elbow injury. He underwent Tommy John surgery almost immediately.

In early March 2023, reports emerged that Effross had begun a throwing program but was still expected to miss the entire campaign while rehabbing from the surgery — even though the pitcher himself didn’t want to rule out a potential return before the end of the regular season.

Effross was transferred to the 60-day IL on March 30th. While he made progress down the stretch, he ended up missing the whole year as previously expected. Given that the Yankees effectively dropped like a rock out of the playoff hunt before the beginning of September, there was little reason to rush him.

Gary Phillips of the New York Daily News reported that Effross threw a bullpen session in August and “he had already thrown a few.” Per MLB.com, Effross was scheduled to throw live batting practice sessions in September and early October. He stated that “if everything continues on the same track, then definitely” he will be a go for spring training 2024. Via pitching coach Matt Blake, Phillips’ most recent update back in December had Effross “still rehabbing” and “working through that progress.”

Effross’ career path has been a tad unusual. A former 15th-round pick out of Indiana University, he didn’t debut until 2021, when he was 27. Even now, he has only thrown a grand total of 71.1 innings in MLB, but boy, they have been good: the 30-year-old has a 2.78 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, and an 80:16 K:BB ratio.

Effross is very different from your average Yankees reliever. He is a sidearmer, for starters; and his fastball, which sits in the 90-mph range, is not the pitch he throws the most often. His slider is, followed by his sinker, then the changeup, and then the four-seamer.

The slider is nasty and looks like it’s rising:

Despite his “odd” profile, it’s hard to argue with the results. Granted, the 2.78 career ERA doesn’t come in a huge sample – again, just 71.1 innings – but he misses bats (27.9 career strikeout percentage), limits walks (5.6 career walk percentage) and nullifies barrels and hard contact.

If Effross is healthy, it’s easy to see him having an excellent season in 2024. However, he just missed a whole year with major surgery, so the most logical approach by the organization and fans would be being cautiously optimistic. He will have to shake off the rust and he surely won’t be available for 70 or 80 innings.

The good thing is that the Yankees have quality and depth to let him return at his own pace. Guys like Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loáisiga, Tommy Kahnle, Ian Hamilton, and Víctor González will be there to pick up the slack while Effross gets back into a rhythm.

The thought of having a guy who is stingy with baserunners, strikes people out and allows lots of soft contact pitching important, high-leverage innings this year is very, very enticing for the Yankees. It could become a reality this year.