Who is Jhony Brito, Yankees starter who shut down Giants in a stellar debut?

Jhony Brito is seen during his MLB debut as the Yankees starter on April 2, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

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The Yankees selected 25-year-old right-hander Jhony Brito to fill in for injured Luis Severino and start Game 3 against the Giants at Yankee Stadium on April 2, 2023. Fans had mixed feelings about the choice since many of them probably had never heard of the young pitcher before the Yankees put him in line to be an MLB starter. But, in his first big-league start, the lanky Dominican looked right at home. Jhony Brito struck out six batters over five scoreless innings and helped the Yankees beat the Giants 6-0 in front of more than 47,000 people. On a day when the Yankees were short on relievers, Brito’s strong debut was momentous.

Jhony Brito is only the fourth Yankee since the end of World War II to make his Major League debut with at least five scoreless innings. He joins Luis Gil (2021), Jonathan Loáisiga (2018), and Sam Militello (1992).

When Aaron Boone first saw Jhony Brito, the young right-hander was throwing strike after strike in a Tampa, Florida, bullpen, using all four of his pitches. The Yankees’ manager was standing behind the pitcher’s mound. He nudged a couple of coaches nearby and said, “He can help us.”

Due to injuries, Jhony Brito got a chance to play sooner than anyone expected, and the 23-year-old did a great job.

But Jhony Brito’s dream debut doesn’t mean he had an easy climb through the Yankees farm system. After signing out of the Dominican Republic and making his debut in 2016, he has steadily moved up. He had Tommy John surgery that kept him out for part of the 2017 season and most of the 2018 season. The 6’2″-tall and 160-pound strong and athletic pitcher gets a natural physical advantage in delivering intense deliveries over and over again.


According to Yankees Director of Pitching Sam Briend, Jhony Brito has the “best command in our organization” because his athleticism empowers him to repeat his mechanics.

Who is Jhony Brito?

After signing with the New York Yankees on November 9, 2015, Jhony Brito made his professional start for the Dominican Summer League Yankees in 2016. He joined the Low-A Staten Island Yankees in 2017 and made three scoreless starts and struck out eight batters. After Tommy John surgery kept him away in 2018, Jhony Brito came back to baseball in 2019. With the Single-A Charleston River Dogs, he played in 22 games (9 of which were starts) and had a 6–4 win-loss record with a 3.58 ERA, 79 strikeouts, and two saves in 100 2/3 innings.

The Yankees added Jhony Brito to their 40-man roster on November 10, 2022, to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He was sent to AAA RrailRiders to start the 2023 season. But, when Luis Severino hurt his lat, the Yankees recalled him.

On April 2, Jhony Brito played his first game in the big leagues against the San Francisco Giants. Brito went five innings without allowing a run and 51 of his 76 pitches were strikes. He only let three runners reach base (two hits and one walk) and struck out six. His debut was historic with the Yankees routing the Giants 6-0.

Jhony Brito in the 2023 spring training camp

When Jhony Brito was put on the 40-man roster on November 10, many Yankees fans heard his name for the first time. But the Yankees already knew how good he was. Pitching coach Matt Blake once told the YES Network that Brito is a player we don’t know yet but who could become well-known in 2023.

“He is someone to look forward to. He can come out of the bullpen and pitch,” according to Kevin Reese, vice president of Yankees player development. “I think he’ll affect our team this year.”

Jhony Brito’s pitching arsenal was then adored for a clever mix of seamers, a slider-derived cutter, a softer curveball, and an excellent changeup. This year, though his fastball goes up to 98 miles per hour, Brito usually worked between 94 and 96 miles per hour.

Jhony Brito retired all 16 batters he faced in a spring game against Toronto on Sunday. He made the most of a spot start that could mean he starts the season as the Yankees’ fifth starter. The right-handed pitcher struck out the first three batters he faced. Ten of the last 13 outs he made were on the ground.

“It felt like a big opportunity,” Jhony Brito then told through an interpreter. “It was a great way for them to see if I can keep being the pitcher I’ve been in camp and in my career: somebody that attacks the zone. Really good opportunity to show what I can do and how I can pitch when facing hitters.”

Against a Toronto lineup that included three potential starters, Jhony Brito displayed impressive speed and effectiveness. His fastball was around 95–97 mph, and he used a strong changeup to get all three strikeouts.

The Debut game

Jhony Brito had a hard time in the first inning in his first MLB start. In three at-bats, he threw at least six pitches. He got LaMonte Wade out on four pitches, which was his first strikeout in the major leagues. But it took him ten pitches to get Michael Conforto out. After J.D. Davis hit a single following six pitches, Brito fought with Joc Pederson for seven pitches. But he made a comeback and got him through first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Jhony Brito’s best pitch was an above-average changeup that really messed up the Giants. He relied heavily on it, throwing it 38% of the time (28 pitches, 22 strikes), which led to 10 swings and misses. All six of his strikeouts were caused by his changeup. The first batter he faced, LaMonte Wade Jr., was the first person he got to strike out.

“I’ve got to thank my teammates,” Brito said. “They prepared me and gave me good pointers to understand that it’s the same kind of baseball that we’re going to play out there. It’s going to be a different stadium and definitely more fans, but I was not nervous.”

The debutant didn’t lose his nerve throughout the game. After getting Mike Yastrzemski to ground out, the young right-hander struck out five straight batters. In the top of the third inning, Jhony Brito got all three batters to strike out.

In the top of the fourth, Jhony Brito walked Conforto, but he quickly got Davis to hit into a double play, which cleared the bases. The next batter, Pederson, hit a deep fly ball to dead center, but Isiah Kiner-Falefa caught it to end the inning.

In the fifth, after Yastrzemski hit a bunt single, Kiner-Falefa caught another long fly ball hit by David Villar. Then, Jhony Brito got Crawford and Blake Sabol out to end his day. His teammates congratulated him in the dugout after a great first start.

“He was fun to watch. He was big-time for us, ” Stanton said of Jhony Brito. “It was good to get his first start the way he did and continue the success for him.”

“His willingness to attack the zone [was impressive],” said catcher Kyle Higashioka. “That’s probably the most important thing for any young pitcher coming up, you have to trust your stuff and attack the zone, or else — major league hitters are going to feel you out and see what you have. If you’re not attacking the zone, they’re not going to chase. He did a great job with all of his pitches, attacking early, and then he got some guys to expand late. Overall I was really happy with it. It was fantastic.”

Jhony Brito’s changeup was his best pitch of the afternoon. Higashioka said that the pitch was so effective because it looked like Brito’s fastball when it came out of his hand. This keeps batters guessing at the plate.

After the game, Jhony Brito was sent to Triple-A. The team doesn’t need a fifth starter again until April 12, an extra reliever may replace him during that time.

Debut Season with New York Yankees in 2023

Jhony Brito’s 2023 season with the New York Yankees was a surprising turn of events from relative obscurity to a notable contributor on the mound. Initially, the Yankees’ rotation was touted as one of the strongest in baseball, anchored by Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón, with expectations high for a successful campaign. However, unforeseen injuries to key pitchers, including Rodón and Severino, forced the Yankees to adjust their plans, propelling Brito from the minors to the majors. Brito, who was not widely recognized among the top prospects in the Yankees’ system, found himself in a critical role at the start of the season.

jhony brito
Robert M. Pimpsner

Throughout the 2023 season, Brito’s performance was a mix of promise and learning experiences. In total, he appeared in 25 games, making 13 starts, and recorded a 4.28 ERA over 90.1 innings pitched. This performance was reflective of both his initial success and subsequent challenges, with a strikeout rate of 7.2 per nine innings and a walk rate of 2.8 per nine. Despite the hurdles, Brito’s ability to contribute both as a starter and a reliever showcased his versatility and resilience. His transition to the bullpen was particularly noteworthy, where he found greater success, underscoring a potential shift in his role on the team.

Brito’s journey to the majors was unexpected but not without merit. His minor league performance in 2022 hinted at his potential, with a 2.96 ERA across Double- and Triple-A levels. This background, combined with the Yankees’ need for pitching depth due to injuries and trades, set the stage for Brito’s call-up. His debut was impressive, starting with two wins and demonstrating the depth of his pitching arsenal, which includes a sinker, changeup, curveball, and four-seamer. However, Brito’s season was not without its ups and downs, as he encountered difficulties in maintaining consistency as a starter, leading to adjustments in his role.

The decision to move Brito to the bullpen was pivotal in his 2023 campaign. In this role, he delivered a remarkable 1.43 ERA across 12 relief outings, significantly better than his starting ERA of 6.32. This improvement was not just in his ERA but also in his underlying metrics, such as FIP and wOBA against, suggesting a genuine enhancement in his pitching effectiveness. The success in the bullpen was attributed to a shift in mindset and an aggressive approach in attacking the strike zone, which was evident in his improved strikeout-minus-walk rate and called strike-plus-whiff rate. These adjustments highlighted Brito’s adaptability and growth as a pitcher.

Despite his promising development, the Yankees opted to trade Brito in a blockbuster deal on December 6, 2023, sending him to the San Diego Padres along with other players for Juan Soto and Trent Grisham. This trade underscores Brito’s value and the potential seen in him by other teams, marking a significant milestone in his career. Brito’s 2023 season with the Yankees, from an unexpected start to a key trade piece, reflects a remarkable journey of growth, adaptation, and impact on the field. As he moves forward with the Padres, Brito’s time with the Yankees will undoubtedly be a foundation for his future endeavors in Major League Baseball.

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Standard Pitching

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162 Game Avg.16130.5634.28452320021621478477255001297206661014.741.2188.
Baseball Reference

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