What is Yankees' plan with rehabbing bullpen wild card?

An all time, "Oh, yeah, THAT dude!" moment is approaching.
Pittsburgh Pirates Photo Day
Pittsburgh Pirates Photo Day / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

In the immediate wake of the Yankees' thrilling Opening Day win in Houston, the front office somewhat silently made a deal, acquiring the final months of ex-Pirates starter JT Brubaker's Tommy John rehab in exchange for ... well, nothing. A prospect to be named later. One month of suspense, if you're a genuine nerd. Otherwise, the trade was consummated in silence.

Now, with the Yankees' bullpen almost entirely in flux, it might be the eve of Brubaker's time to shine. A former starter in Pittsburgh, the 30-year-old right-hander recently showed up in Tampa alongside 2022 trade deadline addition Scott Effross.

While Yankee fans are familiar with the sidearm-slinging Effross and hoping for a return to form, they likely have no idea what a return to form even looks like for Brubaker. Prior to his surgery, the righty was a surprisingly hittable back-of-the-rotation starter, but always provided above-average K numbers, never striking out fewer than 9.13 batters per nine frames in any of his middling seasons. He's always been a whiff gatherer, and the difference between his 2022 ERA (4.69) and FIP (3.92) was a staggering 0.77.

He returned to the minor-league mound with a vengeance last week, perhaps previewing the way the Yankees will use him down the stretch.

Could Yankees use JT Brubaker and his sinker in the bullpen down the stretch?

Brubaker might not have the power sinker of Clay Holmes at first blush, and expecting the Yankees to uncover a second closer out of nowhere just because he was once a middling Pirate is unreasonable. But New York clearly saw something in Brubaker when they acquired him in late March, surrendering a very real prospect in Keiner Delgado (eventually) for a pitcher stuck on the shelf.

Delgado, since the trade, has performed like a mid-tier prospect; the 5'7" 20-year-old has a .757 OPS at Single-A Bradenton. Brubaker, prior to being acquired, showed a proclivity for looking his best the first time through the order, and when he reaches full health, will be returning to a completely disorganized bullpen. Two and a half months might not be enough time to rework his arsenal, but Matt Blake might not need it; dominating in short spurts might come naturally to the ex-Buc.

At the very least, Brubaker should provide three-inning chunks of competence in games where there's a lot to soak up. It's certainly possible he becomes Luke Weaver lite, though, for a bullpen that's become dangerously short on reliability lately.