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Yankees Claim Reliever Junior Fernández Off Waivers

Junior Fernández had the best season of his career in 2022, pitching out of the bullpen for the Pirates and Cardinals.
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The Yankees have claimed right-hander Junior Fernández off waivers from the Pirates, the team announced on Friday afternoon.

Fernández split time in 2022 with Pittsburgh and St. Louis, posting a 2.41 ERA over 18.2 innings pitched. He struck out 14 batters, allowing five earned runs in 16 total relief appearances. After spending the bulk of the season with the Cardinals, Fernández finished the year—his fourth MLB campaign—with the Pirates. He was designated for assignment earlier this week. 

The 25-year-old throws hard, averaging 98.7 mph on his sinker. That's the pitch he uses the most, throwing his sinker 42 percent of the time in 2022. He also has a fastball, slider and changeup.

Last time the Yankees picked up a righty sinkerballer from the Pirates, it was Clay Holmes, a pitcher that blossomed in pinstripes after a trade with some help from New York's pitching department. Holmes used his sinker to earn a trip to the All-Star Game, stepping in as New York's closer before regressing and spending time on the injured list in the second half. 

Perhaps the Yankees can unlock another level of dominance from Fernández in 2023, bringing out the best from his sinker-slider mix. After all, several arms have found success using those pitches in pinstripes over the last several seasons. 

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Part of that process will be retaining pitching coach Matt Blake, who had his contract with the Yankees expire after the conclusion of the 2022 season. New York has made it clear that they hope to bring Blake back in 2023 and beyond.

As much as Fernández has potential, he'll need to prove he can produce consistently in New York's bullpen in order to stick around. The right-hander doesn't have any minor league options remaining.

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