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Jonathan Loáisiga’s return, Michael King’s scoreless streak bolster dominant Yankees bullpen

It didn’t take long for Jonathan Loáisiga to show the Yankees what they had been missing.

Making his first appearance since April 5, the hard-throwing reliever dominated Tuesday night in his return from an elbow injury, needing only 12 pitches to post a perfect ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox.

Loáisiga consistently hit the upper-90s with his fastball before freezing Chicago’s Gavin Sheets with a nasty third-strike changeup to complete the Yankees’ 7-1 win. The strong outing offered a reminder of how valuable a late-inning weapon Loáisiga can be.

“It makes the game a lot shorter,” said Clarke Schmidt, Tuesday’s starting pitcher. “It almost cuts off an inning in a sense towards the back end of the game. He’s one of the best relievers in the game when he’s healthy like he is right now.”

Loáisiga, 28, further bolsters a Yankees bullpen that entered Wednesday with an MLB-best 3.04 ERA. He pitched three games early in the season before undergoing surgery in May to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.

The right-hander emerged as a late-game option for the Yankees in 2021, when he recorded a 2.17 ERA over 70.2 innings. Last year’s campaign got off to a rough start for Loáisiga, but he finished the year with a sub-2.00 ERA in August and September.

“It’s just good to see him come in so sharp,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday night. “The movement on it, too. I don’t care so much about the [velocity] but you could see the two-seam action from the bench there. Just that he came in and just had a real easy time of it, that was really good to see. Just fill up the strike zone, execute, because I do feel like he’s in a good place physically.”

Loáisiga’s return coincides with a hot streak by another high-leverage Yankees reliever in Michael King. In the seven outings since he surrendered a game-tying home run to the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani on July 17, King hasn’t allowed a run. The right-hander struck out 14 batters in eight innings over that stretch.

Boone said King may have been at his best all season Tuesday, when he fired 2.2 scoreless innings against Chicago and struck out five. King regularly hit 97 mph — a notable feat during a season in which the right-hander’s velocity has dipped.

“It definitely allows me to expand my arsenal a little bit, just because you can miss a little bit with a tick harder and they have to respect it,” King said. “It allows you to really expand with the offspeed [pitches].”

King’s four-seam fastball averaged 96.4 mph during his breakout 2022 season, which came to an early end last July when he suffered an elbow fracture. His four-seamer averages 94.3 this season, though King has remained effective with a 2.88 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 59.1 innings.

The 28-year-old says he actually started feeling good on the mound during that ill-fated outing against Ohtani and the Angels.

“Probably since then is when I’ve really felt in tune with my mechanics and stronger out there,” King said.

King and Loáisiga are among the dependable options in a bullpen that’s received consistent dominance from closer Clay Holmes and strong seasons from Tommy Kahnle, Wandy Peralta, Ian Hamilton and others. Keynan Middleton, whom the Yankees acquired from the White Sox before the Aug. 1 trade deadline, struck out five over three scoreless innings during his first two appearances with the team.

“It’s just good to have our bullpen guys back,” King said after Loáisiga’s return. “We gel together down there, and he was such a big part of our team for the last few years, so missing him was big. I know we filled his hole really well, but he definitely increases the bullpen [velocity].”


Source: Berkshire mont

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