Forget, if you can, about Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. dinking and dunking Ian Hamilton in Monday night's Yankees-Blue Jays game (of course you can, the Yankees won that game and it was about to get way weirder).
While George Springer/Bichette/Vladdy against the "unknown" Hamilton might sound like a mismatch to most MLB casuals, the reality is that the meat of the Jays order should feel lucky their bloopers dropped in against the Yankees' most impressive bullpen breakout.
Hamilton broke camp with the Yankees after a wide swath of injuries, from Tommy Kahnle to Lou Trivino, once again decimated the bullpen. He was wildly impressive in the spring, pairing his steely glare with remarkable efficiency and a dynamite breaker, but who knew if the right-hander, with only 14.2 MLB innings to his name, would be anything more than an innings-eater happy for the opportunity?
Nope. Wrong. Hamilton's been one of the best whiff-inducing relievers in MLB this season, and has worked his way far enough into the circle of trust to be asked to close a game against the runaway Rays at Tropicana Field.
He did so, successfully. Hamilton's top-tier strikeout rate, Slambio and snarl combined to earn him recognition on MLB's list of 10 breakout relievers this week. That's what made it such a painful time to see him succumb to the Yankees' injury bug on Tuesday night, entering the game in a rush after Domingo Germán's ejection. By the time he reached 30 pitches, it was clear he could no longer pitch through a tight groin, and after the game, Aaron Boone admitted he's going to be "down for a little bit". And that'll hurt.
Yankees' Ian Hamilton injured after earning spot on MLB.com's 10 breakout relievers list
Prior to the injury, here's what MLB.com had to say about the 27-year-old's season as they honored him:
"Coming into 2023, Hamilton had pitched just 14 2/3 career innings in the Majors -- 12 innings with the White Sox in 2018 and 2020 and 2 2/3 with the Twins last year. He’s far surpassed his 4.91 ERA from those seasons, owning a 1.29 mark in 21 frames with the Yankees in 2023. Hamilton has struck out 35 percent of the batters he’s faced and ranks in the 93rd percentile in MLB in whiff rate."- MLB.com
Ranking alongside Hamilton on this list were notables like Orioles closer Yennier Cano (0.00 ERA, zero walks) and a trio of Mariners (Gabe Speier, Justin Topa, Trevor Gott), who've led Seattle to baseball's best bullpen ERA.
Hamilton has earned similar plaudits, helping to keep the Yankees' bullpen together without Trivino, Kahnle, Scott Effross, and Jonathan Loaisiga, who've combined to throw 3.1 innings this season.
Luckily, the right-hander with the slider/change hybrid has moved far enough into Aaron Boone's circle of trust that his roster spot can in no way be up for grabs when he returns. Jhony Brito and Clarke Schmidt will eventually be shuffled to either Triple-A or the bullpen when the Yankees' starters return. Ryan Weber/Greg Weissert/Deivi Garcia's shuttle spot will be demoted, too. Albert Abreu will be -- has to be -- the first 40-man reliever DFA'd, if necessary.
And, at least it's not an elbow or shoulder. Right? Right.
Hamilton, the man with the longest odds to both make the roster and make an impact this spring, will be securely taken care of when it's time for him to return. Give the man his flowers -- though, based on Hamilton's mound presence, he'll probably bite off the tops and spit them out.