Yankees sign reliever Tony Zych to minor league deal


On the same day, pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa, FLA, for the start of spring training, the Yankees inked veteran relief pitcher Tony Zych to a minor league deal.

Spring training is officially upon us, which means Yankees general manager will continue to stock up on inexpensive veteran contracts until his minor league rosters are complete.

And so, on Wednesday, right-handed relief pitcher Tony Zych inked a deal with the Bombers that will give him a chance to make an impression in camp.

Because of a biceps/shoulder injury in 2016, that was followed by a forearm issue the next season — and subsequent thoracic outlet surgery in 2018, Zych hasn’t thrown a professional pitch since ’17, while with the Mariners.

Whether you prefer to categorize him as injury-prone or well-rested, when healthy, Zych has been an above-average major league pitcher.

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A college teammate of Chad Green at the University of Louisville, Zych was selected in the fourth round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. By 2015, the Illinois native had made his debut with Seattle and began to show the type of stuff that warranted an early-round draft pick.

Over the next three seasons, Zych logged 72.2 innings (70 appearances) while compiling a 7-3 record, 2.72 ERA, 1.252 WHIP, 3.22 FIP, .217 BAA, and 9.9 K/9.

Even more impressive is that Zych has faced a total of 203 right-handed major league batters without surrendering a single home run (0.37 HR/9 overall).

Zych, 29, has a deceptive motion that some believe led to his various ailments; however, when active, his slider, sinker, four-seam combo resulted in a 49.5 percent groundball rate in 2017.

For those that enjoy a good piece of trivia, upon making his big league debut, Zych broke a 105-year-old record for having a surname that placed him last, alphabetically, for all major leaguers.

As Zych told the Chicago Tribune in 2015, breaking the record was “pretty weird.”

"“It’s really cool to set a record, but I didn’t do anything but show up. Now I hope to do something on the field to make me stay up here a lot longer.”"

Naturally, it’ll be a challenge to break into the stoic Yankees’ Opening Day bullpen, especially considering the lengthy layoff Zych has experienced.

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But perhaps under the guidance of Eric Cressey, the Yankees’ new Director of Player Health and Performance, Zych can regain his full strength down at Triple-A Scranton — and then resume his brief, albeit successful track record at some point during the 2020 season.