The Yankees came into the season knowing that pitching depth would be a determining factor for them. Last night, they dipped into and tested it. JP Sears passed with flying colors. The left-hander pitched just over five scoreless innings in his second major-league start as the Bombers beat the A’s, 2-1, at the Stadium.
The Yankees (55-20) have won three straight and clinched the best-of-three game series. They have won 19 of 23 completed series and split two. The A’s (25-51) have lost six of their last eight.
Sears has pitched 12.2 innings in the big leagues without giving up a run. The 26-year old scattered three hits, walked one and struck out one.
“We put him on the 40 man roster in the offseason because of performance and what we thought he could be, but the fact that he’s stepped up big for us here early to be an option (is something) we feel really good about,” Aaron Boone said.
Marwin Gonzalez hit his third homer off the season and Jose Trevino singled in a run to provide the offense against the A’s ace Frankie Montas.
But Tuesday night was a real test of the Yankees’ pitching depth. Looking to manage their rotation’s workload, they used Sears as a spot starter in this stretch of 20 games in 20 days.
“This season is going to be a little more of a challenge with the shorter spring and not having the normal offseason with eyes on players. So everyone’s going to be tested,” Boone said. “We will, I am sure, continue to be and you continue to try to fortify it with good options.”
There were a concerning number of pitchers injuries in 2021 with pitchers coming off COVID pandemic–abbreviated 2020 season. The concerns were raised again when the owner’s lockout pushed back and shortened spring training this year, leaving most pitchers to ramp up on their own.
Matt Blake, the Yankees pitching coach, said this spring that getting pitchers through July and August, traditionally a time of arm fatigue, would be a challenge this season, This stretch of 20 games in 20 days, however, was a mini-stress test for the Bombers. They have to be proactive because they have some workload concerns in the rotation and the bullpen.
Luis Severino, who has pitched 72 innings so far this season, pitched just 27 over the last three years because of injuries. Nestor Cortes, who has never pitched more than 93 innings in the big leagues, has already thrown 79 this year. The lefty probably could go to 140 with a normal buildup. Michael King, who pitched 1.1 scoreless Tuesday night, has already blown past his 22 appearances from 2021 and has 41.2 innings pitched in the 26 appearances this season. He threw a total of 69 innings last season. Clay Holmes, who allowed a run but picked up his 13th save, has thrown 35.2 innings this season, nearly half of the 70 he threw last year.
The relievers’ workload has been affected by injuries. Aroldis Chapman, who has been on the injured list for more than a month with an Achilles issue, pitched a perfect inning in Triple-A Tuesday night and is expected back in the bullpen as soon as today. Jonathan Loaisiga is also expected back at some point before the All-Star break to help ease that bullpen load.
Domingo German, who threw 3.1 scoreless innings for Double-A Somerset on Tuesday, is also expected to come back and help the load management for both the starters and relievers. He threw 43 pitches, scattered two hits and struck out three Tuesday.
Clarke Schmidt was scheduled to start Thursday for Triple-A. He made 14 appearances with the big-league club, including a start. He pitched to a 3.00 ERA and a 1.167 WHIP.
“Obviously we got Clarke down right now. He’s gonna get built up a little bit. And we feel like Clark’s made big strides this year, too,” Boone said.
Lefty Ken Waldichuk, who has a 1.99 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 58.2 innings over 12 Triple-A starts, and right-hander Hayden Wesneski, who has 55 strikeouts in 65 innings and a 4.02 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 14 Triple-A appearances, have both put themselves on the Yankees, radar.
“So, always looking to fortify and keep that reservoir going to where you’re going to have to tap into some things at different points over the year,” Boone said.