Did Yankees figure out Clay Holmes’ mechanical issue during IL stint?


It’s not hyperbolic to say the New York Yankees’ fate in 2022 could be directly tied to how forcefully Clay Holmes emerges from his recent trip to the IL — especially without Michael King’s return on the horizon.

Since the loss of their eighth-inning specialist, Holmes has converted only a single save: a five-out savior job in the immediate wake of King’s elbow going out in Baltimore. He blew every other opportunity he encountered between July 9 and his IL trip on Aug. 17, often battling sudden bouts of wildness in the process.

When Holmes was placed on the shelf with a reported back issue, fans were torn about whether or not the stint away from the team was a means to an end. An attempt to shine a spotlight on a medical issue while also trying to diagnose mental struggles, leading to a fruitful break.

According to WFAN’s Sweeny Murti, Holmes is feeling physically whole as he prepares to return to the Yankees for the stretch run, where he’ll likely absorb closer duties more often than not.

He’s also returning after making a tweak that’ll hopefully raise his dipping release point and get him some of his trademark control back.

Yankees Clay Holmes makes windup tweak after back injury

According to Sweeny Murti at WFAN:

"While the Yankees hope the time to rest and heal the back issue improves Holmes’ command, the right-hander has also made a slight mechanical tweak: moving his set position a few inches from the third base side of the rubber towards the middle. That little change might help keep his power sinker from boring too far inside and hitting the righty batters."

Remember, on July 7 in Boston, John Sterling introduced Holmes for a save opportunity in a 6-5 game by claiming there was no reliever he’d rather have (while citing Josh Hader, pre-meltdown of his own). It made sense! It made complete sense to say this! If the Yankees could get the July 7 Holmes back for Sept. and Oct., their fate could change entirely.

Add in recent encouraging work by Jonathan Loaisiga, who’s managed to pinpoint his 99 and 90 (changeup) against the Mets and A’s, and you’ve got an enviable back-end tandem (though we won’t believe it ’til we see it several times over).

Holmes at his very best was able to dot his moving sinker on both corners at will, inducing a plethora of terrible swings over the top of diving whiffle balls thrown at 97 MPH. It always seemed like the Yankees had stumbled into treasure in someone else’s trash, though. The enthusiastic fan wanted to root for the closer who’d unlocked everything; the pessimist waiting for the other shoe to drop remembered his control issues in Pittsburgh and knew Matt Blake didn’t have a magic wand.

Aug. was a massacre in many ways for the Yankees, and perhaps the most glaring was Holmes’ loss of control and reversion. If this 15-day stint gets him right — and there’s a reason to believe the Yankees actually got things corrected — that could change the course of 2022.

If not, there’s always next year — and next reclamation project.