Spotlight on Soto but Yankees pitchers are real catalysts in the team’s hot start

Yankees' Stroman, Schmidt, Soto, Torres, and Cortes at a Nicks' game in New York on April 18, 2024.

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As the Yankees began their 2024 season, all eyes were on Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, and the team’s offensive power. There was seldom any thought for the pitching department, which was severely depleted with Gerrit Cole‘s spring training battle with elbow inflammation.

Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodon, both emerging from injury-plagued campaigns, were crucial figures, while the acquisition of Marcus Stroman fortified the rotation. Yet, a lingering question mark remained regarding the reliability of the fifth starter slot.

However, almost a month later, the Yankees are 17-9 and have lost only one series. They reign over the AL East division and are favorably looked by the oddsmakers. Despite offensive struggles from key players like Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres, the Yankees have soared to one of their most dominant starts in recent memory, fueled by their stellar pitching prowess. The shadow of uncertainty over the Yankees’ pitching no longer looks potent enough.

Heading into their Thursday matchup with the Athletics, the Yankees boasted the second-lowest team ERA in the league at 2.95. Their starting pitchers have been particularly impressive, ranking third overall with a stellar 3.01 ERA. Furthermore, closer Clay Holmes has been immaculate, yet to surrender a run in 12 appearances. Over their last seven starts, the starting rotation has been nearly untouchable, compiling a remarkable 1.98 ERA with a whopping 46 strikeouts.

Manager Aaron Boone has consistently praised his team’s fighting spirit, emphasizing that each starting pitcher gives them a genuine shot at victory. He expressed his confidence in the rotation, citing their ability to overcome challenges faced last season. With a proven track record of resilience, the Yankees skipper is clearly content with their current form and highlights their impressive collective achievements.

Luis Gil of the Yankees returns to dugout after pitching against the Diamondbacks in Arizona on April 01, 2024.
AP

“We’ve gotten a legitimate chance to win, I feel, every single start,” Aaron Boone said on Thursday. “That goes a long way. I can’t say I’m surprised. I have a ton of confidence in everyone in our rotation right now. Now, they’re coming off different things last year – whether it was injury, down performance, whatever. But they’re all guys that have a track record, that are capable, that we feel like we’re in a good spot…We like what we’re seeing.”

Yankees pitching staff fires on all cylinders

The Yankees’ pitching staff has defied pre-season apprehensions, transforming potential concerns into a resounding narrative of triumph.

Gerrit Cole is all praise for the current state of the Yankees’ pitching staff. He acknowledged their excellent performance, commending their ability to make adjustments and their collaborative effort to continuously improve. “It’s a concerted effort from one start to the next,” Cole remarked, highlighting the impressive execution and ability of the Yankees to bounce back from challenges.

“They’re doing excellent,” he told. “They’re throwing the ball well. I like the adjustments that we’re making. It’s a concerted effort from one start to the next to improve so it’s nice to see that come to fruition. We’ve been executing well. Guys are throwing the ball well, bouncing back after they have some challenges.”

This resilience is exemplified by Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes. Rodon, following a rough outing against the Blue Jays, bounced back with a dominant seven-inning performance against the Athletics. Similarly, Cortes has been working on improving the quality and command of his fastball.

Yankees manager echoed Cole’s sentiment, crediting the strong camaraderie and rapport amongst the pitchers. He highlighted Gerrit Cole’s role in fostering this team spirit, despite his absence from pitching. Boone expressed satisfaction with the current dynamic within the pitching group.

Yankees closer Clay Holmes at Tampa spring training camp on February 18, 2024.
NYY

The bullpen has also weathered the storm of Jonathan Loaisiga’s season-ending surgery. Ian Hamilton has emerged as a dependable option, bridging the gap to closer Clay Holmes. While Holmes has allowed some baserunners (12 hits in 12 innings), he boasts a major-league-leading nine saves. Boone attributes this success to Holmes’ ability to handle adversity and his constant pursuit of improvement. He sees a more polished and complete pitcher compared to previous seasons. Boone elaborated on Holmes’ improved control, reliable secondary pitches, and ability to adjust on the fly.

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