Last Updated on September 14, 2023 at 5:58 am by Michael Bennington
Upon Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga‘s placement on the injured list earlier this season due to elbow inflammation, manager Aaron Boone openly expressed his frustration with the pitcher’s recurring struggle to maintain good health.
Back on April 8, the manager mentioned that the particular issue had posed challenges for Loaisiga in “different points in different years.” Then, he expressed the hope that it wouldn’t become a long-term problem, although they didn’t believe it would be, and acknowledged the frustration it caused.
The injury in question ultimately translated into an extended period of four-month stay for Loaisiga on the injured list, necessitating a lengthy rehabilitation process following surgery to address a bone spur.
Now, Loaisiga finds himself once again placed on the IL with a preliminary diagnosis similar to the previous one received on Tuesday. Despite the Yankees’ belief that this recent setback is not of significant concern, Aaron Boone’s perspective regarding the reliever’s ability to remain injury-free remains unchanged.
Yankees unhappy with injury-prone Loaisiga
Boone stated that Loaisiga had experienced interruptions each season. He noted that when the pitcher is performing well, his abilities are exceptional, including his efficiency, great stuff, versatility against both right and left-handed hitters, and the capability to fulfill various roles, such as closing out games or handling critical situations. However, he also acknowledged that Loaisiga’s seasons had been consistently disrupted over the years.
Boone’s concerns are entirely valid. Since 2019, Loaisiga has grappled with a troubling total of five arm-related injuries, encompassing three instances of right shoulder strains and two IL stints that were initially triggered by elbow inflammation. This pattern raises significant concerns, especially considering that Loaisiga has just one more year of team control. Even in his earlier years as a prospect, he experienced arm-related issues, including Tommy John surgery seven years ago.
The season is over for the pitcher
As for the current season, it has been confirmed that Loaisiga will not make any further appearances in 2023. Boone made this announcement on Tuesday afternoon, and it doesn’t come as a surprise given that there are only 17 games left in the regular season (following Tuesday’s doubleheader), leaving insufficient time for a return. The more pressing question revolves around the potential impact of this injury on his availability for the upcoming year.
As of the current assessment, there is a belief that this injury should not be a significant cause for concern. Boone does not believe it is related to the bone spur issue that kept Loaisiga sidelined for four months earlier in the year. The Yankees are choosing to exercise caution by shutting him down and sending him back to New York for additional testing.
This implies that the right-handed pitcher may undergo imaging procedures or seek a second opinion, potentially revealing more complex issues within his elbow.
Boone’s assessment of Loaisiga as one of the game’s premier relievers, particularly when he’s healthy and in top form, is not an exaggeration. Just two years ago, Loaisiga delivered a standout performance with a 2.17 ERA across 57 appearances, marking the best season of his career. Prior to encountering difficulties against the Brewers over the past weekend, which may have been related to the state of his elbow, Loaisiga had strung together an impressive streak of 12 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings since his return from the 60-day injured list, reclaiming his dominant capabilities.
For the 28-year-old, the critical challenge lies in demonstrating his ability to remain injury-free throughout an entire season before reaching free agency if he intends to secure the highest possible contract. Otherwise, he remains a tantalizing talent but comes with substantial risk for any team considering signing Loaisiga.
Looking ahead to the next season, the Yankees face numerous uncertainties in their bullpen, extending beyond Loaisiga’s health status. Questions arise regarding Clay Holmes‘ suitability for a closer role, given his occasional command volatility, although he excels when his sinker is effective. The potential return of free agents like Wandy Peralta and Keynan Middleton adds further complexity. Additionally, there are considerations regarding Michael King‘s role, whether he will start the year in the rotation or maintain his multi-inning reliever role. The performance expectations of Tommy Kahnle and Scott Effross, the latter returning from Tommy John surgery next spring, are also variables to account for.
Even though the Yankees have held the lowest bullpen ERA in baseball throughout the season, there are no guarantees regarding late-inning pitching options for 2024, making it a critical area to address during the upcoming winter.
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