Yankees not averse to Luis Gil’s ‘timeout’ or bullpen move, reveals pitching coach

Yankees' pitching coach Matt Blake looks at as Luis Gil is pitching at a bullpen practice at Yankee Stadium before a game on June 10, 2024.
Joe Najarian
Wednesday June 12, 2024

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The New York Yankees are carefully considering a potential course of action regarding the talented young hurler, Luis Gil. The organization is weighing the benefits of a tactical shift that would involve moving the stud pitcher from his current role as a starter to a relief position in the bullpen.

This deliberation is rooted in a multitude of considerations, chief among them being the need to carefully manage Luis Gil’s innings and the impending return of the team’s ace, Gerrit Cole, who has been sidelined due to injury.

In a recent interview with “Foul Territory,” which took place prior to the Yankees’ commanding 10-1 victory against the Royals in Kansas City on Tuesday, the team’s pitching coach, Matt Blake, shed light on the organization’s thought process. Blake emphasized that the Yankees are inclined to proceed with prudence, particularly in light of the anticipated return of key reinforcements, most notably the aforementioned Gerrit Cole.

“Try to find the best balance for the group,” the coach said referring to Luis Gil when asked about the possible changes after Gerrit Cole’s return from injury. “Is it in the bullpen? Is it a timeout at some point? I don’t know if we have those answers but taking as many steps going forward and getting as much information as possible is our best bet.”

However, Blake assured that the Yankees are “not going to put an arbitrary innings limit” on Luis Gil and any decision will come after careful consideration.

Yankees' Luis Gil is pitching against the Twins at Yankee Stadium on June 4, 2024.

Luis Gil emerges as Yankees next ace

Luis Gil has risen to prominence as a standout performer for the New York Yankees this season, providing a significant boost to the team’s starting rotation in the absence of ace Cole. His emergence has been particularly noteworthy given his limited experience in the major leagues, having missed most of the 2022 season and the entirety of 2023 due to undergoing Tommy John surgery. Despite this setback, the hard-throwing right-hander has showcased his immense talent, compiling an impressive 8-1 record, a sparkling 2.04 ERA, and racking up a team-leading 90 strikeouts across 75 innings pitched.

The young pitcher’s meteoric rise has been nothing short of remarkable, as Luis Gil has seamlessly transitioned into a key role in the Yankees’ rotation. His dominant performances have been instrumental in maintaining the team’s competitive edge, contributing to their position as one of the top teams in Major League Baseball. Armed with a blistering fastball that consistently befuddles opposing hitters and a rapidly improving changeup, Luis Gil has drawn comparisons to Cole himself, particularly in terms of his ability to generate swings and misses and overpower batters.

However, amidst the excitement surrounding Luis Gil’s breakout season, there are growing concerns regarding his workload management. The young hurler has already amassed over 75 innings pitched this year, representing a substantial increase compared to his previous professional campaigns. This sharp uptick in workload raises legitimate questions about the potential for fatigue or an increased risk of injury as the season progresses.

Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake has acknowledged that while Luis Gil’s arm has held up well thus far, the organization is keenly aware of the need to avoid the pitfalls associated with overusing a young pitcher. The team’s recent history, such as the case of Clarke Schmidt, serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the potential consequences of overextending young arms, which can lead to diminished performance and increased injury risk later in the season.

Despite these concerns, Luis Gil’s exceptional performance has catapulted him into the early discussions for the American League Rookie of the Year award and has even garnered consideration for a starting role in the upcoming All-Star game. These accolades are all the more impressive when considering that Luis Gil has never surpassed 96 innings pitched in a single professional season, a milestone he achieved in 2019 while splitting time between the Yankees’ Single-A and High-A affiliates.

“Obviously, Luis Gil, first and foremost, hasn’t had the track record of innings over the last few years so we have to be really mindful of his workload as we go,” Blake said.

In discussing the potential change, Blake emphasized the effectiveness of Luis Gil’s pitching arsenal, particularly his fastball-changeup combination, in shorter relief stints. The hard-throwing right-hander’s ability to dominate hitters in brief appearances could make him a valuable asset to the Yankees’ bullpen.

“We’re looking at ways to maximize Luis’ impact on the team while also being mindful of his long-term development,” Blake said. “His stuff plays well in shorter bursts, and we believe he could be a real weapon for us in high-leverage situations.”

Luis Gil, player of the new york yankees

Will the move help the Yankees and Luis Gil?

The proposed shift to the bullpen would serve two primary purposes for the Yankees. Firstly, it would allow the team to manage Luis Gil’s innings more effectively, reducing the risk of fatigue or injury as the season progresses. Secondly, his dominant fastball and improving changeup could make him a formidable reliever, providing the Yankees with a reliable arm to navigate crucial moments in games.

Blake said: “I think we’ve been pretty upfront that we’re not going to put an arbitrary innings limit on him. More so, we’re going to look at how he’s responding to the workload he’s currently managing, how his work looks like in between, what his recovery looks like in the weight room and training room [and] how his metrics are tracking as we go.

“All of those things are important and maybe give us a more informed decision on him.”

The transition from starter to reliever is not without its challenges. Luis Gil has primarily been a starter throughout his career, with limited experience in relief roles since his time in Triple-A in 2021. Adapting to the bullpen’s demands, where pitchers often have to be ready to pitch on shorter notice and in varying situations, will require adjustments. However, Blake believes that Luis Gil’s athleticism and adaptability make him well-suited for this role. The coach noted that Luis Gil’s fastball, with its late movement and occasional “effective wildness,” could be particularly devastating in relief appearances​.

Gerrit Cole, who has been a mentor to Luis Gil, has already praised his student’s ability to make quick adjustments and his high-end pitching arsenal. He has been instrumental in Luis Gil’s development, emphasizing the importance of attacking hitters early in the count and maintaining composure under pressure. Cole’s mentorship has played a crucial role in the young star’s success, and his support could be pivotal as Gil transitions to a new role.

The decision to move Luis Gil to the bullpen will ultimately depend on several factors, including Cole’s progress in his recovery and the overall needs of the Yankees’ pitching staff. If Cole returns and reclaims his spot in the rotation, the Yankees will need to decide how best to utilize his talents while protecting his arm. A bullpen role could provide the perfect balance, allowing Luis Gil to continue contributing significantly while managing his workload more effectively​.

Yankees' Luis Gil is pitching against the Twins at Yankee Stadium on June 4, 2024.

This move could also have strategic benefits for the Yankees. A strong bullpen is crucial for any team with playoff aspirations, and adding a pitcher of Luis Gil’s caliber could provide a significant boost. His ability to pitch multiple innings in relief could bridge the gap between starters and the back end of the bullpen, giving Boone more flexibility in managing games. Additionally, having a pitcher who can dominate in short bursts could be invaluable in high-pressure postseason situations​​.

“Those are obviously the tough conversations you hope to have, you have too many good starters,” Blake said. “This is one of many things we’re going to seriously look at as we go forward.”

As the season progresses, the Yankees will continue to evaluate Luis Gil’s performance and workload, making adjustments as needed to ensure he remains effective and healthy. Whether as a starter or a reliever, Luis Gil’s future with the Yankees looks bright, and his contributions will be crucial to the team’s success both now and in the future​. The forthcoming return of Gerrit Cole and the careful management of Luis Gil’s workload will undoubtedly play pivotal roles in shaping the Yankees’ pitching staff and their pursuit of success for the 28th championship.

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