Clay Holmes is well on his way to being one of those – and there’s more than a few – Yankees representing the club at next month’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
But speaking before Wednesday night’s game against the Rays, Aaron Boone said Holmes may not be the full-time closer when Aroldis Chapman returns from the injured list.
“I think a little of everything,” Boone said of how he sees Holmes’ role when Chapman, who has been on the IL since May 24 with left Achilles tendinitis, comes back. “He’ll be closing some games, too. Basically, he’s going to find himself in a lot of the toughest part of the lineup. So whether that’s the eighth inning or the ninth inning, we’ll just try and match them up as best we can.”
Though that statement may cause some among the fan base to panic, it is unlikely Holmes’ role will be impacted all that much. Holmes, 29, pitched a scoreless ninth inning in the Yankees’ 4-3 victory over the Rays Wednesday night, making him 11-for-11 in saves with a 0.29 ERA in 29 games. Holmes, whose nearly unhittable sinker helped him run his scoreless- inning streak to 30, has struck out 32 and walked three in 30 2/3 innings.
The reality is the Yankees are highly unlikely to immediately thrust Chapman, 9-for-9 in saves but with a 3.86 ERA having been scored on in five straight appearances before going to the IL, back into the closer’s job, especially given Holmes’ performance.
“He’s been, I think, beyond great to this point,” Boone said of Holmes, who came to the Yankees from the Pirates before last year’s trade deadline, a deal that at the time garnered little attention. “It’s a special run that he’s been on. Efficient, dominant, however you want to describe it, he’s in a really good place, obviously, with tremendous stuff and going out there with a lot of confidence because of that stuff and the confidence in his game plan and his ability to execute. It’s definitely been fun to watch him do his thing.”
Boone said he hasn’t seen a big difference between the Holmes of this year and the Holmes of last year, who posted a 1.61 ERA in 25 games with the Yankees, striking out 34 and walking four in 28 innings.
“Not a ton because he was immediately pretty darn good with us,” Boone said. “I remember him debuting in Tampa [last July 29], we put him in and I remember all of us [in the dugout] were like, ‘That’s pretty good.’ It was pretty shortly thereafter that he was finding himself in big situations and, obviously, became a huge part of our bullpen last year and was dominant. He’s probably taken it to another level this year…now you’re just seeing a polished reliever in his prime with great stuff going out there with a ton of confidence.”
Josh Donaldson, who served his one-game suspension for his “Jackie” comments toward White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, returned to the team Wednesday. Donaldson, whose appeal of the MLB-instituted suspension was denied, started at third and batted fifth.