Tommy Kahnle enhances arsenal in downtime with nasty two-seam fastball

Yankees bullpen asset Tommy Kahnle is pitching during a spring training camp at Tampa on February 28, 2024.

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Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle spent his tranquil Sunday honing a new weapon – a two-seam fastball – during his third simulated game outing. This addition aims to complement his already potent arsenal consisting of a four-seam fastball and a changeup.

“Started throwing it late last season,” Tommy Kahnle revealed about the two-seamer, referencing its successful debut against Alex Verdugo in a mid-September 2023 game at Fenway Park by striking him out.

Interestingly, despite now being teammates, Tommy Kahnle sought Verdugo’s feedback on the pitch, only to find the left-handed hitter completely unaware of it. “He didn’t even recognize it,” the pitcher chuckled, “because I’d never thrown it before in a game.”

While the new pitch shows promise, it might require a few more weeks of refinement before Tommy Kahnle unleashes it in a real game situation.

Tommy Kahnle eager for return with new pitch

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(Lynne Sladky | AP)

Tommy Kahnle, a key member of the Yankees bullpen, is aiming for a swift return despite a slight delay due to lingering shoulder inflammation from late 2023. Currently, he’s roughly two weeks behind the initial schedule.

While his teammates prepare to open the season against the Astros in Houston on Thursday, the right-hander will remain in Tampa for one more simulated game before transitioning to a minor-league rehab assignment.

Despite the setback, Tommy Kahnle expressed positive signs from his recent progress. He threw 25 pitches in his latest simulated outing, including five that mimicked working through part of a second inning.

A crucial aspect of the session was throwing twice, allowing Tommy Kahnle to assess both his performance and endurance. He reported feeling good about his arm strength, confirming it’s nearing the necessary level for competition.

Based on his physical sensations and the quality of his pitches, Tommy Kahnle exuded optimism about his upcoming return. He anticipates a potential velocity increase once he faces live big league hitters again.

However, he acknowledged a need to sharpen his focus, particularly considering the current environment. With Yankees split squads playing in Mexico City and Bradenton, Steinbrenner Field had been relatively empty during his training sessions. Tommy Kahnle believes this lack of atmosphere might be affecting his concentration.

While refining his overall command remains a priority, Tommy Kahnle also identified specific challenges with his recently introduced two-seam fastball. Ideally, this pitch should exhibit upward movement and break away from left-handed hitters.

Reflecting on his approach, the 34-year-old Tommy Kahnle, who is in the final season of a two-year, $11.5 million contract, admitted to occasionally treating the ball too gingerly during his throws. This results in a sinking effect rather than the desired upward movement he’s aiming for.

Tommy Kahnle seems determined to overcome these minor obstacles and looks forward to a successful return to the mound soon.

A key cog in Yankees bullpen

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USA TODAY Sports

While a minor setback delays his return, Tommy Kahnle is set to rejoin a Yankees bullpen that has undergone some changes since the 2023 season. The trades that brought in slugger Juan Soto sent both Michael King and Wandy Peralta to the Padres.

Clay Holmes, a key member of the bullpen, acknowledged a shift in the team’s dynamic following these departures. However, he highlighted Kahnle’s energetic and vocal personality, suggesting it could help fill some of the void left by the traded relievers.

Tommy Kahnle’s infectious personality extends beyond the mound. During spring training, he installed a mini-basketball net above his locker, challenging teammates to shoot beyond a makeshift three-point line on the floor. Known as the team’s resident “sports guru,” his enthusiasm for March Madness and his beloved North Carolina Tar Heels is well known.

Despite the personnel changes, Holmes expressed confidence in the bullpen’s overall strength and focus. He praised the quality of their pitching abilities and the shared sense of camaraderie within the group. This combination of talent and teamwork fuels their motivation to support each other and achieve excellence.

Maintaining the health of setup man Jonathan Loaisiga will be crucial for the bullpen’s success. Additionally, the Yankees anticipate the return of rehabbing right-handers Scott Effross (back) and Lou Trivino (elbow) by midseason, further bolstering their relief corps.

Interestingly, Tommy Kahnle’s experience with the Los Angeles Dodgers provided him with connections to two new Yankees relievers – lefties Victor Gonzalez and Caleb Ferguson, both acquired in separate winter deals.

Looking forward to his return, Tommy Kahnle expressed admiration for the team’s overall talent. He believes each member possesses the skills and potential to be a closer on any other team in the league. This depth and diversity within the bullpen make the Yankees a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming season.

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