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Game 12: Bats go quiet after hot start in walk off loss to Toronto

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The Yankees dropped this afternoon’s affair to the Blue Jays, 5-4. Bo Bichette, who homered twice in this one, delivered a walk off home run against Chad Green in the ninth. The Yankees are now 5-7 and have lost three of the four series they’ve played thus far.

Corey Kluber delivered another less-than-ideal outing and the offense sputtered again. The bullpen kept the Yankees in the game, but the relievers can only keep doing so much. I’ll expand on Kluber, the bats, and the ‘pen in the takeaways from this one after the jump.

Mailbag: Pinch Running, Gleyber’s Defense, Closers, Lineup Construction

Happy Friday, everyone. Today’s the day we learn if Aaron Judge is actually hurt or not. In a few hours, we’ll find out if he’s in the lineup for today’s 3pm game against the Rays. I’m sure the reactions will be measured either way.

But before that, it’s time for a mailbag. Four good questions today. As always, please send yours to viewsfrom314@gmail.com. We answer our favorites every Friday. Let’s get to it.

The bullpen: A great stable of arms [2021 Season Preview]

Newbie Darren O’Day sure knew how to endear himself to a fanbase, huh? There clearly was some intent in that comment early this month. As you may recall, Rays’ manager Kevin Cash touted his stable of guys who throw 98 last year in response to the beef the Yankees and Rays had. It sounded a bit threatening after Aroldis Chapman threw some chin music to Mike Brosseau. Granted, the Rays got the last laugh. It’s a new year though, and this bullpen is clearly pretty good, as O’Day said.

The locks

Although Aroldis Chapman‘s high octane fastball is no longer unique among his peers, he’s still one of the league’s best closers. He’ll continue to blow his upper-90s heat by hitters in 2021, but that might not be his only big threat anymore. Sure, his slider has been effective at times in the past, but this year, Chapman plans to incorporate the splitter he teased last season. It’s looked pretty nasty in camp.

As tantalizing as that split looks, there’s one ultimate goal for Chapman this season: to record the clinching out of the World Series rather than end his year like the previous two postseasons. One last note: Chapman will serve a two-game suspension to start the season as a result of this aforementioned incident against the Rays last season.

Yankees Spring Training News & Notes: March 11, 2021

The Yankees topped Philadelphia 6-1 in Clearwater earlier today. Aaron Hicks homered, Gerrit Cole was dealing, and everyone’s favorite non-roster invitee Lucas Luetge did his thing again. Here’s Hicks’s excuse-me-wind-aided dinger:

More on the game in a bit, but first, some important rehab news.

The Big Story: Luis Severino

As anticipated, Luis Severino threw off a mound this week. It’s the first time he’s been on the bump since he underwent Tommy John surgery last February. This session happened Tuesday, though it wasn’t public knowledge until today.

Sevy threw 20 pitches, all fastballs, and it went well according to Aaron Boone:

“It was a lot of fun for me to get over there on Tuesday morning to be there to see that first one and just to see how he’s moving around,” Boone said before Thursday’s exhibition against Philadelphia in Clearwater.

“There’s just a confidence in that he’s kind of exuding in his health, just watching him play catch, the way his body is, the kind of shape he’s in and the free and easy way in which he’s throwing,” Boone said. “He was really efficient the other day — it really kind of throwing it exactly where he wanted. He was coming out hot. We almost said, ‘Hey, back off a little bit. It’s coming out a little too well.’ And he wasn’t working for it necessarily. So really encouraged about where he’s at to this point.”

Obviously, it’s great to hear that Severino looked great and came away from this step healthy. If all goes well, Sevy will be a huge boost to the Yankees’ rotation in the second half of the season. And I know, I know: you’re not going to like hearing Brian Cashman say that he’s the best acquisition the team could make when the trade deadline comes around. But honestly, will he really be wrong about that?

There’s still a long way for Severino to go, of course. He needs to start mixing in breaking balls, face hitters, build up arm strength, etc. But every step he takes without an issue is a big plus.

Looking forward to seeing this again.

Thoughts As Zack Britton Undergoes Surgery

Zack Britton, as you have likely seen by now, will have surgery today and miss the start of the season. It is the first major blow to the Yankees in 2021 in terms of injury, even if it could have been much worse. (When you hear elbow, you immediately think Tommy John.) Still, it’s not what you want.

Anyway, this will have a number of impacts on the Yankees and I have some thoughts about all of that. Let’s get to them.

1. Missing Britton’s Performance: The Yanks will miss Britton. He is sometimes frustrating due to his high walk rates (13% in 2019, 9% in 2020), but the man has been an integral piece of the Yankee bullpen since he joined the team at the 2018 deadline. Britton owns a 2.14 ERA (3.62 FIP) with a 76.3% ground ball rate in 105 innings pitched in pinstripes, with an average exit velocity of just 87 miles-per-hour. This combination means he gives up almost no home runs (0.43 per 9 innings pitched) and limits the damage opposing batters can do against him: they hit just .182, with a .226 BABIP. That is elite performance. Britton has been all you could have asked for and more.

All of this is to say that Britton is a key cog in the dominant Yankee bullpen machine. He also brings a unique look, throwing 85% sinkers – the next closest Yankee regular over this stretch is Jordan Montgomery at 15% – and just 0.5% straight fastballs, the lowest on the team. While he still brings the heat and is by no means a junkballer, Britton is a new, different look every time he comes out of the pen. It will not be easy to replace his performance.

Now, the good news is that he will only be out a couple of months, barring no setbacks. It’s not clear when he will return – estimates vary, and the team didn’t say – but the New York Post says he will be shut down six to eight weeks. That puts us at a June return if all goes well. The good news is that this is a straightforward surgery. Gio Urshela just had it in December, after all, and he is fine now.

Still, the Yanks can and should play it safe. Britton just recently recovered from COVID and these are the best months to miss, if you have to miss any at all. It sucks, and the bullpen will suffer, but the Yankees can weather his absence for two-and-half months. The most important thing will be getting him back to full health and strength before the stretch run and postseason. That is really what’s most important here.

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