Yankees rehab overload at Double-A Sunday gives fans sudden hope, also Aroldis Chapman

Mar 14, 2022; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Zack Britton (53) talks during a press conference at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2022; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Zack Britton (53) talks during a press conference at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Yankees might be on the verge of getting a deluge of important pieces back — oh, and also Aroldis Chapman.

The team’s forthcoming rehab wave crested on Sunday in Hartford, as the Double-A Somerset Patriots were joined by a trio of big-league relievers in Chapman, Zack Britton and the long-forgotten Miguel Castro.

That doesn’t even cover the team’s most intriguing returnee, someone Bombers fans have never seen rock pinstripes before, but who can replace Aaron Hicks as soon as he’s ready. That’s Harrison Bader, who shook off the walking boot to rock and roll Sunday as well.

On Friday night against the Rays, Yankees fans reached the heart of hopelessness, watching their depleted lineup scuffle against Drew Rasmussen on what was supposed to be a rally-starting night in honor of Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame crowning. Instead, Hicks dropped the ball (figuratively, sure, but mostly literally), and the team came up well short of their new chief rivals.

But two offensive outbursts later, and the Yanks are no longer looking for silver linings, but rather basking in one. And things are about to get complex in the best way, based on what happened down on the farm Sunday, too.

Though it’s difficult to count Britton as a defined part of this bullpen down the stretch and into the postseason, he looked sharp again Sunday, and has looked nothing but sharp since working his way back from an experimental derivative of Tommy John.

Yankees’ projected bullpen after Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Miguel Castro comebacks

That’s now an 0.69 ERA (nice) in 4.1 innings across five outings throughout the minors this season, and from the video above, it’s clear Britton is starting from a sharper place than anticipated.

Out of left field, Miguel Castro also made a rehab appearance Sunday, notching a perfect frame of his own. Suddenly, the big-league bullpen is getting awfully crowded for October and beyond. Castro and Britton didn’t feel like realistic options even a few weeks ago, but both men are now knocking on the door. So is Scott Effross, the Yankees’ versatile trade deadline addition who came up with a shoulder issue around the time things looked most dire.

The Yanks will give Britton and Effross chances; they’ll probably replace Greg Weissert and Ryan Weber in the coming days. But will Castro … even be elevated? Does the team prefer the erratic righty to Lucas Luetge and/or Clarke Schmidt?

And this isn’t even to discuss the forthcoming Aroldis Chapman issue. Chappy also rehabbed Sunday, and didn’t look quite so good in his scoreless outing.

Convince us a big-leaguer would’ve whiffed on that eye-high hung changeup. We dare you.

Chapman will be back in the bigs when ready. The Yankees can’t delay his activation like they could theoretically do to Castro. But with Clay Holmes and Jonathan Loaisiga both finding their footing for the first time in forever, there doesn’t seem to be a place for the Yanks’ ex-closer in the late innings.

Unless (gulp) … well, these things usually tend to work themselves out. Someone won’t return. Someone else will need a breather.

And speaking of forced breathers, Aaron Hicks isn’t allowed to play home games anymore, and the next time the Yankees take the field in the Bronx, Harrison Bader should be either in left or center (Sept. 20 against the Pirates, if you’re counting the minutes).

The Yankees’ rehab wave this summer featured several wild cards, all of whom seemed to force the issue Sunday in Connecticut.

This could end up being a massive boon, combined with Luis Severino’s apparent forthcoming return as the postseason approaches. But it could also create some unhappy faces, if longtime bullpen stalwarts are shown the door.

And don’t even get us started on Ron Marinaccio’s options…