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Yankees say they aren’t worried about Jonathan Loaisiga’s early-season struggles

CHICAGO — Jonathan Loaisiga got the win, but left the game still looking for his confidence Thursday night. The Yankees right-hander came into the Yankees’ 15-7 win in the seventh inning with a runner on, walked a batter and then gave up a three-run homer.

It’s been that kind of year for Loaisiga.

“That’s unlike him,” Aaron Boone said of Loaisiga losing command, getting behind and then walking Tim Anderson. “We saw that a couple times and it hurt him in some early outings where he had back-to-back outings and he kind of struggled, but he’s kind of righted the ship since then.

“And tonight was that he just struggled with his command.”

So, the red flags are not going up publicly with the Yankees yet, but it is shocking considering how great he was last season.

After a dominating 2021 season, in which he was closing games as Aroldis Chapman struggled to find his command, Loaisiga is off to a very slow start this season. The Yankees have been able to overcome his struggles, because the rest of their bullpen has been simply dominant, and like Thursday night the offense can just overpower teams.

But it is an issue to keep an eye on.

Last season, Loaisiga was 9-4 with a team-best 2.17 ERA and five saves in 57 appearances.

He had 69 strikeouts and just 16 walks over 70.2 innings pitched. He allowed just three home runs all season.

Thursday night, Loaisiga walked Anderson, the first hitter he faced. Then he gave up a home run to Yoan Moncada.

The walk was the eighth that Loaisiga had issued in 13.2 innings pitched this season. That is more than half the walks he gave up last season. His 13.7% walk rate is the worst of his career and in the bottom 10% of major league pitchers.

The homer was the third he has given up this season, matching the number he allowed in all of 2021. His homer per nine innings rate (1.4) is the second worst of his career.

Loaisiga has his highest hard-hit percentage (31.3) in the last three years and the second lowest strikeout percentage (23.3) of his career.

Matt Blake thinks that this is really the next step for Loaisiga; the league’s hitters have acknowledged how good he is, made adjustments to attack him and now he needs to make changes.

“He’s kind of put himself on the map and people know who he is. So I think there’s probably a little bit more understanding of what he’s going to try to do to them. So I think now he’s got to add and adjust to them,” the Yankees pitching coach said. “Guys are cheating on his fastball in certain areas, and he’s gotta be able to throw the slider for strikes a little bit more and that type of stuff, but not overly concerned. Just you always want to see a guy perform well and trust his stuff. I think that his confidence will come.”

A scout watching Loaisiga Thursday night noted that the sinker that was so effective for him last season wasn’t working for him.

“The sinker isn’t sinking,” the American League scout said. “He was up and middle of the plate on the Moncada homer. He doesn’t seem to have the command that made him so effective last season either.”

The sinker has lost about a mile per hour of velocity from last season, which could indicate where the issue is. Loaisiga is also throwing his slider about 5% more than he did in 2021 at the expense of his four-seam fastball. The slider has also lost almost two mph off of the 2021 version.

Those are things that are trending in the right direction now, though, Blake said. He’s more concerned that Loaisiga find his confidence and go back to attacking hitters.

“I think for me, it’s just a little bit of confidence right now. I think he’s just kind of got to get back to being aggressive and attacking in the zone,” Blake said. “A couple of times it just felt like he was a little tentative around the zone and it’s natural. He got punched in the mouth a little bit by [Blue Jays slugger] Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and [Orioles slugger] Austin Hays and I think he is just getting up to full speed now. The velo is coming up and we’re just trying to get the slider shaped to tighten up a little bit but we’ve talked he’s healthy and he’s getting the work in.

“He just has to continue to go back out there and trust his stuff.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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