How Gerrit Cole’s return may result in Clarke Schmidt moving to Yankees bullpen

New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins
New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins / David Berding/GettyImages

There is such a thing as a “good” problem to have. The New York Yankees'  starting rotation has been rolling, and they could receive another boost that will assuredly shake up their current pitching staff.

With reigning Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole inching closer to a return, Clarke Schmidt may be headed for the bullpen. The big picture is rather blurry right now, especially with Schmidt coming off a career-best start last week in Tampa, but there's a case for this to be the end result.

There was a time before the season where some Bomber fans would have been OK with removing either Schmidt or Luis Gil from the rotation, but both have been excellent while Cole has been out. Gil just broke the Yankees’ single-game rookie strikeout record set by Orlando Hernandez in 1998, and Schmidt is sporting a 2.49 ERA through nine starts.

“It’s really cool to see those guys out there grinding every day and doing what they’re doing,” Juan Soto told the New York Post. “There’s a reason why we’re in first place. They’ve been commanding the team the right way, they’ve been helping the offense when the offense is off and when the offense is on, too. They’ve been great day in and day out. I think they’re a huge part.”

Obviously, Cole will take his place atop the rotation once he’s healthy, which, barring the construction of a six-man rotation, likely means that Gil or Schmidt will be sent to the bullpen. It’s also possible that Gil could be sent down to the minors, but with how well he’s performed, one would assume he’d remain in the Bronx. This means that Schimdt’s role may change, especially considering Gil has never pitched in relief.

Schmidt would clearly like to remain a starter, but his pitch mix may be useful out of the 'pen. He holds a sinker and cutter, among other tools. It could be said that, at his best, Schmidt can pitch to contact or hunt strikeouts.

Even though FB% and LD% are up this year and his GB% is down, his K% has risen from 2023. If he’s moved to the bullpen, it’s possible that he would adapt to whatever the situation calls for in a way that Gil may not be able to with his fastball, slider, and changeup mix (and not to mention, his incredibly high walk rate that would spell danger for the later innings).

Further, Schmidt has shown a commitment to providing length this year. If any of the Yankees’ other starters were to have a “clunker,” Schmidt could eat valuable innings and potentially give the bats a chance to battle back. Or, even better, he could be the Michael King replacement the team thought they were getting with Jonathan Loaisiga this year.

The reality is that even if Schmidt is momentarily moved to the bullpen this summer, he may return to the rotation at some point. Injuries and other factors usually pop up, and having Schmidt as a reliable option to start spot games is invaluable. But, assuming all goes according to plan and everyone stays healthy, it may be in the club’s best interest to send the former first-round pick to a relief role because he might be best suited out of any of the other options.