Yankees delight turns to be a big headache for manager Boone

The New York Yankees' manager Aaron Boone, Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Juan Soto, and Jasson Dominguez.
Inna Zeyger
Tuesday May 14, 2024

Table of Contents

The Yankees face intriguing roster decisions in the coming weeks. As ace pitcher Gerrit Cole is set to return, the team has to take a call on their five-man rotation. Similarly, Jasson Dominguez’s return could squeeze out the outfield, where every player is performing well. DJ LeMahieu’s anticipated debut is sure to necessitate shuffling the infield, with second base, third base, and utility roles all impacted.

While the Yankees seem to be on a romp and reinforcements are certain to strengthen their winning credentials, skipper Aaron Boone faces a decision dilemma. It is to be seen whether he will prioritize performance and potential or settle for reduced roles for some players.

Yankees rotation puzzle for Boone

gerrit-cole-new-york-yankees
mlb

As Gerrit Cole inches closer to his return, throwing bullpen sessions and preparing for live batting practice, the Yankees face a looming decision regarding their starting rotation. With Cole expected to rejoin the team between mid-June and early July, one of the current five starters will inevitably lose their spot.

Luis Gil, who has been filling in for Cole, is no longer the obvious choice to be bumped from the rotation. Despite his relative inexperience, occasional wildness, and the fact that he can be optioned, Gil has been making a strong case for himself. Boasting the hardest-throwing arsenal and arguably the best stuff among the Yankees’ current starters, Gil has been dominant, posting a 2.58 ERA after his latest gem – six shutout innings in a 10-6 victory over the Rays.

However, keeping Gil in the rotation may not be a straightforward decision, even if he continues to outperform Nestor Cortes, who currently holds a 1-4 record and a 4.02 ERA. The primary concern surrounding Gil is his workload, as he is in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. Having pitched only four innings last year and not exceeding 50 since his career-high 96 in 2019, Gil is already at 43 innings this season. If he were to average five innings per start over 30 starts, his total would reach 150 innings – a workload the Yankees are unlikely to allow.

Will the Yankees make a bold decision and send Carlos Rodon to the bullpen or go with a six-man rotation?

Upheaval in Yankees outfield to test Boone

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Twitter-NYY

As Jasson Dominguez prepares to embark on his 20-day rehab assignment in Tampa on Tuesday night, his first game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Yankees are faced with a crucial decision. When the rehab period concludes on June 4, the team must choose between recalling Dominguez to start in center field, flanked by Aaron Judge in left and Juan Soto in right, or maintaining their current successful outfield configuration featuring Alex Verdugo in left, Judge in center, and Soto in right.

Despite the temptation to bring back the highly-touted Dominguez, optioning him to the minors remains a viable option. The Yankees have been thrilled with Verdugo’s contributions, both offensively and defensively, as well as the infectious energy he brings to the dugout and clubhouse, drawing comparisons to the impact of former Yankee Luke Voit.

New York Yankees’ Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, and Alex Verdugo celebrate after their 9-4 win over the Houston Astros, May 8, 2024, in New York.
AP

Moreover, while Dominguez made a stellar first impression last September before his season was cut short by the elbow injury, his experience above Double-A is limited to just 17 games – nine with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and eight with the Yankees. But his return talks have started to dim Verdugo’s time in pinstripes.

Will Boone squeeze out Verdugo for Dominguez or make more changes to keep both on the Yankees lineup?

The infield conundrum for Yankees

LeMahieu of the Yankees at a practice session.
AP

The Yankees are cautiously optimistic about DJ LeMahieu’s progress, as his fractured right foot shows signs of healing. After facing live pitching on Saturday without any setbacks, LeMahieu is set to repeat the process early this week. If all goes well, he could soon be cleared for rehab games, potentially returning from the IL and making his season debut within a week or two.

LeMahieu’s return will bolster the Yankees’ bench depth, likely resulting in Oswaldo Cabrera shifting from a starting role at third base to a utility position. Unfortunately, this may also mean that Jahmai Jones, the hero of Sunday’s game, could face being designated for assignment.

Another intriguing possibility is to have Cabrera start at second base for at least half of the games, with Gleyber Torres becoming a part-time player.

Analysts expect Boone to let LeMahieu take over the third base and Torres retain his spot in the lineup. However, he may be inclined to rest both players frequently and allow Cabrera and Jon Berti to receive good playing time.

Yankees bullpen

Tommy Kahnle extended his shutout streak to 13 2/3 innings in 14 outings with win over the Orioles on July 3, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
@db1207_/Twitter

Tommy Kahnle‘s rehab journey is progressing smoothly, with back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in Tampa on Wednesday and Saturday. His next stop will be Somerset on Tuesday for his third rehab outing, followed by three more appearances. 

As Kahnle nears his return, the Yankees will soon welcome another seasoned high-leverage arm to their bullpen. 

However, if all the current relievers remain healthy, someone will unfortunately lose their roster spot, just as Ron Marinaccio did last week despite his impressive 1.42 ERA in nine games. Marinaccio was optioned to make room for Nick Burdi, who came off the IL with a perfect 0.00 ERA in seven appearances.

Scott-Effross-new-york-yankees
Charles Wenzelberg/NYP

Scott Effross, the sidewinding right-hander, is making significant strides in his rehab and could provide the Yankees with another high-quality reliever later this summer. After missing the entire previous season due to Tommy John surgery and being sidelined this year following back surgery in December, Effross is now on the verge of facing live hitters in batting practice.

By the time Effross is likely ready to come off the IL, other relievers will have suffered new injuries, creating an opening for his return. However, if the bullpen remains healthy, the Yankees will need to assess whether Effross is an upgrade over their current options.

Boone has to decide between waiver claim Michael Tonkin, who has maintained a spotless 0.00 ERA through 6 2/3 innings and five outings as a Yankee, and left-hander Caleb Ferguson.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “Yankees delight turns to be a big headache for manager Boone

  1. The decisions really aren’t all that hard. Gil, whether stated or not, was always on an innings limit. Remember, even before the TJS, he had never appeared in 27 games, or had 110 IP in any given year.

    The infield. Pleeeeeease. When is DJ really coming back? Let’s not worry about it at this time. The same thing needs to apply when Dominguez is really ready. Sometimes, things take care of themselves and Cashman never is hesitant to use the options on players who have options left.

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