Yankees throwing Tommy Kahnle right into fire after Wednesday activation

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees / Elsa/GettyImages

The New York Yankees have mostly stayed away from bullpen missteps in 2024, but on Monday, with a short back end, they stumbled slightly. After savior Luke Weaver, riding an 18-inning scoreless streak, closed the eighth inning on just six pitches, it seemed logical he'd be brought back out for the ninth, especially after the Yankees extended the gap to 4-1.

Closer Clay Holmes, the logical next applicant, had been used two of the previous three games. Without Ian Hamilton in tow (COVID), it felt likely the Yankees would try to "steal outs" with Weaver in what would've been their best-ever use of stealing outs. Alas, it didn't happen; they tried Holmes and his 0.00 ERA instead, and somehow everything that could've gone wrong did go wrong. Notably, it all went wrong at subpar exit velocities, but still ... results-driven business, and it's left the Yankees relatively barren in the late innings.

That's where changeup artist and energizer Tommy Kahnle comes in. After battling shoulder fatigue since late September 2023, the right-hander has finally emerged from his ramp-up phase after a perfect rehab (nine batters, eight Ks, no base runners in Somerset), ready to contribute at a time when the Yankees could really use him.

According to Aaron Boone, the team will be careful on back-to-backs, but won't wet Kahnle's feet with low-leverage opportunities early. Call it part "victim of circumstance," part "riding a rehab heater," but it sounds like Kahnle will be used to paper over Hamilton's absence right away.

Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle returning for high-leverage opportunities

It felt like last year "went awry" for Kahnle, who blew a few games down the stretch (in a lost season) at a time when he was probably already battling shoulder fatigue. In actuality, his season was quite good; while he fought the FIP Monster all year, he maintained a 1.91 ERA through Aug. 19, then suffered two blowups, including his final outing of the year. If you're trying to figure out whether something is wrong, "2/3 of an inning, no hits, two runs, four walks against Toronto" is a fairly solid indicator.

Now, Kahnle will be rejoining the Yankees after having plenty of time to get right, and making the most of his opportunity in the mid-minors. The only negative here is that he won't have a single second out of the spotlight -- though, knowing how much he loves mic'd-up screaming, that's probably the way he likes it anyway.