Yankees new pitching coach Matt Blake could have another reinforcement once play resumes
By Scott Roche
When the 2019 season ended following a Game 6 loss to the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park, it was inevitable that the New York Yankees would make changes. One changed that occurred was with their pitching coach.
The Yankees fired Larry Rothschild after eight years. Names were swirling around as to who the next pitching coach would be. On Nov. 8, the Yanks announced that 34-year old Matt Blake would fill the position. One would have to figure that there’s a lot of pressure on someone younger than some of the pitchers on his staff to begin his big league coaching career.
When Blake reported to Spring Training, the starting rotation on paper looked impressive. Gerrit Cole was signed in December to be the ace. Luis Severino was slotted into the second spot and Masahiro Tanaka third.
Even with James Paxton recovering from offseason surgery to remove a cyst off his back that would sideline him until May at the earliest, things were looking good. J.A. Happ was looked to fill the fourth spot, while Jordan Montgomery was expected to win the battle for the fifth and final spot.
Of course, things don’t go as planned, especially for the injury-riddled Yankees. It was announced in late February that Severino would miss the 2020 season to have Tommy John surgery. The left a void that would have to be picked up by Tanaka. Keeping Happ looks like a move that was done with the knowledge of Paxton’s situation and keeping depth.
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Blake was working with a shorthanded staff when Major League Baseball announced on March 13 that they were suspending Spring Training due for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic that has overtaken not only the country but a lot of the world too. Once the time is right and the world is a safe and healthy place to return to normal living, then it would be time to turn our attention back to sports and MLB.
When that proper time comes, what once seemed like a staff with some questions marks especially at the back end of the rotation, could look different for Blake and the Yankees. Assuming Paxton continues to make positive strides with his rehab they could open the season with him, Cole, Tanaka, Happ and Montgomery in the starting rotation.
That would give the younger guys like Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt more time to develop in the minors. It also allows the Yanks to move Jonathan Loaisga to the bullpen where he has a chance to dominate as a multi-inning reliever.
MLB announced Monday that the regular-season could start in mid-May at the earliest. That might be too early and a June 1 return could be more realistic. Getting through the coronavirus outbreak is the top priority right now for everybody.