The Yankees have stuck with Sonny Gray all season despite his struggles, but after his terrible performance on Wednesday, it might finally be the time to replace him in the starting rotation.
Since coming to the Yankees at last year’s trade deadline Gray just hasn’t lived up to expectations at all. He was ok down the stretch last season following the trade but his first full season in pinstripes has been a disaster up to this point.
Wednesday Gray’s season reached its lowest point when against the 33-75 Orioles he couldn’t make it out of the third inning and gave up seven earned runs in the Yankees 7-5 loss. The Orioles have been awful all season but the last time the Yankees faced them they at least still had some good hitters in their lineups like Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.
Both were traded away prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline and yet Gray was still knocked around by an offense that resembled a Triple-A lineup (outside of Adam Jones). In a game, the Yankees needed to win with Boston off and 5 games ahead of them in the standings Gray didn’t even give his team a chance to win. Now the Yanks head into this huge four-game series at Fenway 5.5 out instead of 4.5. They also fell to 6-6 on the season against the worst team in baseball.
Replacing Gray to get the final out of the third was the newly acquired Lance Lynn, who went on to deliver 4.1 scoreless innings with five strikeouts in his team debut. Lynn was brought in by the Yanks to serve as a long man in the bullpen or spot start when needed but now it looks like he might get the opportunity to pitch in the rotation moving forward instead of Gray. Here was Aaron Boone on the possibility of removing Gray from the rotation per Wallace Matthews of the New York Times:
"“Those are all things that we’ve got to evaluate and consider,” Boone said of Gray’s spot in the rotation. “We do have some options now. We’re not going to be emotional about it right now. But we’ll all get together and try to come up with the best options going forward.”"
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In weeks past when Gray was struggling just as much, Boone never considered replacing him only because they didn’t really have anyone to replace him with. Jordan Montgomery was out recovering from Tommy John, Masahiro Tanaka was injured and the rotation featured rookies Domingo German and Jonathan Loasigia.
Now with Lynn in the fold, it’s time to make a change and move Sonny to the bullpen. At this point in the season, every game matters and the Yankees can’t afford to keep sending Gray and his 5.56 ERA out there every fifth day. They won’t catch the Red Sox if they do, but with Lynn, they might have a shot.
After a slow start to his season with the Twins he’s pitched much better in recent months and unlike Gray, he’s always in attack mode and has good career numbers against the Red Sox.
Lynn also has plenty of experience pitching in a pennant race from his days with the Cardinals. He might not be the difference maker J.A. Happ will hopefully be, but he’ll provide stability and give the Yankees a better chance to win than Gray when he takes the mound.
It’s unfair to blame Gray’s struggles on the pressure of pitching in New York getting to him, but whatever the reason is that shouldn’t save him from being kicked out of the rotation. Since joining the Yankees Gray has a 4.82 ERA in 34 starts. At home, he’s struggled even more, especially this season.
The Yankees have been patient with Gray and have done everything they can to help him adjust to pitching in New York. Last season and this season they benched Gary Sanchez whenever he pitched and made Austin Romine his personal catcher. After the All-Star break this year, they made sure Gray wouldn’t pitch against the Red Sox and tried to lineup him up to start against bad teams like the Orioles and Royals.
None of it has worked out and now the Yankees have no more excuses to justify his struggles. It’s time to make a change and go with Lynn.