Michael King is back to boost Yankees championship push in 2023

Michael King is a reliever for the New York Yankees.

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TAMPA, Fl. — Michael King suffered a right elbow bone fracture in July 2022 and it forced him to stay away from the game since then. However, the Yankees reliever seems to be in great shape in spring training and ready to boost the team’s push for a championship this season.

“Only is a hard word to use because it felt like forever,” Michael King said on Tuesday after pitching two innings to batters at the spring training camp of the Yankees. On Friday, his Grapefruit League debut was excellent with shutouts and strikeouts.

Michael King was sad to miss the end of the season last year because he had to join the rehab process. However, he knows he was lucky to only miss only two months last season. It would be much longer, had he been forced to have Tommy John surgery on top of the surgery that fixed his broken elbow.

“So it feels quick when I look at it from that perspective,” King said, “but for the most part, I’m so itching to get back out there in a game because it sucks having to watch my team play when I’m just sitting there broken.”

The Yankees want him back just as much as he does. Michael King is still on track to start training with the team and give them the bullpen weapon they missed so much in the last two months of the regular season and the playoffs.

Before he was hurt, it was hard for the Yankees to find a better or more valuable reliever than him. In 51 innings and 34 games, the right-hander had a 2.29 ERA and 66 strikeouts. He became a threat for more than one inning. Michael King could blow through a lineup and bridge the gap between the starter and the closer. This gave other high-stakes relievers important days off.

On July 22, the day of Michael King’s last game, his 1.7 fWAR was tied for the second-highest mark of all relievers. And if it wasn’t already clear how important he was to the Yankees, they had a hard time making up for his absence, especially in the playoffs.

Now, Michael King is building up his workload in camp so that the Yankees can use him in different ways. The plan is for him to pitch up to three innings at some point this spring, but manager Aaron Boone recently said that they will “probably” use him as “that multi-inning weapon.”

Sixteen of Michael King’s 34 appearances last season lasted more than one inning. He pitched on consecutive days five times, but only when both ends lasted one inning or fewer. That was a learning lesson for the previous starter in terms of how many days off he would need following a multi-inning appearance.

“It got to the point where it didn’t really feel good at any day, but I would not tell trainers that and this is what happens,” King said. “But usually I’d say … I could throw a 40-pitch inning and actually feel good in a day or so, whereas if I spread out those 40 pitches over three ups [innings], the ups kind of get your heart rate down, back up, down, back up. And that, I think, takes a little bit more time.”

“So if I go those three innings, usually I’d say I need two days. But then if they need me for a really short outing, I can do that quicker than if they only need me for three.”

Meanwhile, Michael King believes he is getting closer to being ready for the season. It took some time for him to get back into his mechanics after the extended injury layoff, but the more he pitches the more he feels like himself.

“I’ve been feeling like myself, I’d say for the last three outings,” he said. “If you asked me that question two weeks ago, I would have said [I felt] nowhere close to regular-season ready.”

“But my last three, I think I’ve developed a little bit more confidence just based on results [and] also just the comfort of my mechanics.”

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