Yankees' Jonathan Loaisiga Adds New Weapon, Striving For Bigger Role This Season
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Jonathan Loaisiga revealed on Sunday that he's working on a new pitch, an additional weapon that could pay huge dividends as manager Aaron Boone mulls over the right-hander's role in 2020.
"I'm working on a slider right now," Loaisiga said through the team interpreter after one clean inning to start the Yankees' second Spring Training game.
Loaisiga threw just 14 pitches in the first inning of New York's 9-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out All-Star Austin Meadows to lead off the game before quickly retiring the next two hitters.
The right-hander said he threw an additional 10 pitches after he finished his outing to reach his targeted total of 25. Even in a small sample size, however, he was happy with the way his slider appeared in his first chance to use it in a game this spring.
"Today I executed a couple," he said. "Some of them were good, some of them not so good, but that’s what spring training is for. To work on your pitches and find a rhythm."
Boone was pleased overall with Loaisiga's performance, specifically praising his changeup, but didn't hesitate to single out the slider as well.
"He’s got three dynamic pitches – the fastball, changeup and his curveball are all really good pitches," Boone explained. "I think [his slider] is continuing to evolve as he learns himself and what is his right repertoire."
Last year – Loaisiga's second big-league season – the righty appeared in 15 games, making four starts. He posted a 4.55 ERA while striking out 37 in 31.2 innings pitched.
Boone referenced the addition of a two seam fastball to Loaisiga's sequencing as proof that adding a new pitch is viable for the 25-year-old.
"We saw him break out the two seamer at the end of last year," he explained. "That proved to be a really good pitch for him. For him, it’s about being athletic in his delivery and having that good rhythm and with that stuff, the results will follow."
With James Paxton set to miss time after his lower back surgery earlier this month – although he's progressing well as of Saturday – and Domingo Germán suspended for the first 63 games of the season, New York needed to sort out rotational depth heading into Spring Training. Now, with Luis Severino shut down due to right forearm soreness, the rotation could need arms even more.
Loaisiga said the club hasn't spoken to him about a specific plan regarding stretching out his usage and potentially converting him more so into a starter. Before Loaisiga took the mound on Sunday, however, Boone said the right-hander has the potential to be transitioned into a new role in 2020, but that it's too early to tell how he'll be used.
"I mean the thing with Lo is I never want to limit what he may do someday because he’s so talented," Boone said. "He’s physically really gifted. We’ll just see, we’ll build him up a little bit and then based on need and where he’s at and where other guys are at, I could see him being that dynamic two, one time through the order guy out of the ‘pen.
"You could see a scenario where he makes some starts out of the pen. We’re not at that point where we’re deciding that yet. We’ll just build him up and then be in a good position to have a difficult decision."
Loaisiga is just grateful to have an opportunity to help the team.
"There’s a chance I'm in the running to win a spot in the rotation," he said. "If that’s going to happen, I gotta do my job in the field. I gotta keep working and keep doing my job out there and we’ll see what happens."
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