After numerous setbacks, Jonathan Loaisiga is poised for a breakout 2019

Over the course of the 2018 regular season, the Yankees saw a parade of minor league pitchers sent up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to have a shot at The Show, due to injuries in the rotation and bullpen.

I will admit, there came a point at which I could not even remember who was who. Chance Adams was called up to start in Boston late in the year. Tommy Kahnle was in the Majors… oh wait no, he is pitching in Triple-A, now he’s back, and now he’s gone. Domingo German experienced the ultimate baptism by fire when he just did not appear ready to be a major league starter. Finally, there was Jonathan Loaisiga, who, as far as most casual fans could tell, seemed like just another minor leaguer coming through on the Scranton Shuttle.

Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports

In Pinstripes, Loaisiga appeared in just nine games over the 2018 regular season. He started four of those nine games, logged 24.2 IP, two wins, and an ERA of 5.11. He struck out 33, allowed 26 hits and 17 runs, not the greatest line of stats, even for a rookie.

Loaisiga was far from the most revered of the parade of minor leaguers who came to the Yankees in the 2018 season -- in fact, he even spent a large portion of the season with the Yankees Double-A affiliate rather than Triple-A. However, he earned praise for his arm through his time in the minor leagues. In addition, he’s had trouble staying healthy, and as a result, hasn’t necessarily showcased his full potential upon each call-up. He was also passed over by ESPN’s Top 100 MLB Prospects of 2019 due to his injury history.

“Though he’s regarded as one of the top young arms in the organization and previously  made four starts for the big club earlier this season, Loaisiga will likely head to the bullpen as he reports back to the Yankees,” a RotoWire report stated upon Loaisiga’s return to the Bronx in September 2018. “Between his time in the majors and stops at three affiliates in the minors, Loaisiga has accrued only 74 innings, but that still represents his highest total of his career after injuries prevented him from pitching in 2014 and 2015.” Additionally, Loaisiga had to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2016.

However, this week, as 2019 spring training games are days away, Loaisiga appears to be crafting a fresh start for himself -- one in which he stays healthy, and could potentially find a place in the starting rotation. With diminished use of C.C. Sabathia as well as his retirement after the 2019 season, and the overall need for a starting pitcher, Loaisiga is showing signs that he wants to step up to the pla, - er -, mound, and stay healthy and produce.

“We followed the program,” Loaisiga told Sports. What did that program include? A personal trainer to improve his shoulder strength and in turn, his throwing arm.

“I worked to improve the little muscles around my shoulder,” Loaisiga continued. “That’s the one thing that has bothered me throughout my career.” As a result, Loaisiga’s chances of staying healthy for an entire season significantly increase. Since his career began in the minor leagues in the San Francisco Giants farm system in 2014, he has not been able to throw an uninterrupted season.

While the Yankees are not in desperate need of a starting pitcher, it is a fact that the bullpen cannot be too full in today’s game of Major League Baseball. “Bullpen games” are increasingly common as starting pitchers throw fewer innings. Even if Loaisiga is unable to find himself in the starting rotation to begin 2019, his work in the offseason can contribute to the bullpen -- and if he stays healthy, that contribution certainly won’t go unnoticed.

Loaisiga is slated to start the Yankees' second game of the spring on Sunday.

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson


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