Was Jonathan Loaisiga Destined to Be Yankees' Fifth Starting Pitcher in Rotation This Spring?

Max Goodman

Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the biggest storyline of New York Yankees' Spring Training was the starting rotation.

All eyes were on Gerrit Cole as he checked off multiple firsts with his new ball club, gradually approaching a much-anticipated start on Opening Day. Injuries to Luis Severino and James Paxton were causes of concern and sparked questions regarding the club's internal pitching depth.

Perhaps the most debated topic of the spring, however, was who would slot in as the Yankees' fifth starter before Paxton's return from lower back surgery.

With Jordan Montgomery set to assume responsibilities of the staff's No. 4 spot, and veterans J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka poised for solid seasons flanking Cole, a slew of candidates remained to satisfy the final vacant position. 

Among the phenoms and Major League vets, Jonathan Loaisiga had a standout performance in Grapefruit League play. Weeks later, after new pitching coach Matt Blake addressed the status of the club's starters in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, it's clear Loaisiga would have factored into the equation should the season have started on time.

READ: Pitching coach Matt Blake on where New York's starting pitchers are located and how they're keeping their arms in shape during MLB's delay

“Loaisiga was an interesting option. We kicked that around," Blake told members of the media on the phone, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. "Whether it was a full starter or opener or kind of a Swiss Army Knife role, he had obviously really taken a step forward for us this year.”

In five appearances this spring, including three games started, Loaisiga was one of the Yankees' best hurlers. He struck out 14 batters in 10 innings pitched, posting a 2.70 ERA and .400 WHIP.

Skipper Aaron Boone had praised Loaisiga's growth throughout the spring. Blake's comments this week, however, prove further that the coaching staff had faith in the 25-year-old's abilities on the mound. The rookie pitching coach added on the conference call that Loaisiga would have factored in "heavily" to New York's rotation.

Across his two-year career with the Bombers – after ascending through the farm system as the club's former No. 1 pitching prospect – Loaisiga has pitched in 24 games and made eight starts at the big-league level. He has a career 4.79 ERA in 56 1/3 innings pitched with  70 total punch outs.

Since the season was postponed, Loaisiga returned to his native Nicaragua where he will be spending the duration of this coronavirus-induced hiatus. 

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