Yankees relief pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga adjusts the PitchCom receiver in...

Yankees relief pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga adjusts the PitchCom receiver in his cap during the sixth inning of an MLB baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, April 28, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

CHICAGO — Do the Yankees have a Jonathan Loaisiga problem?

The middle of May is too soon to make a determination of that kind, but by any objective measure, the Yankees’ best and most consistent reliever in 2021 hasn’t approached that form in 2022.

Though he earned the victory in Thursday night’s 15-7 victory over the White Sox, that was a product of good timing for Loaisiga and nothing else.

After he allowed Yoan Moncada’s tying three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh, the Yankees blew the game open with a seven-run eighth that made it 14-7.

Moncada’s homer was the third allowed by Loaisiga in 13 2/3 innings. He allowed three homers in 70 2/3 innings last season.

Loaisiga recorded a 2.17 ERA in 57 games in 2021, striking out 69 and walking 16. He has a 5.93 ERA in 14 appearances this season, striking out 12 and walking eight.  

“He's just not being as aggressive with his fastball,” pitching coach Matt Blake said. “I feel like he’s still kind of working through his confidence, like any of these guys, [in] just trusting his stuff over the plate.”

Before the Moncada homer, Loaisiga walked Tim Anderson.

“The walk to Anderson, a guy that doesn’t walk very often,” Blake said. “[Loaisiga needed to] be willing to be over the plate a little bit more. And then Moncada gets that ball where he likes in that down-and-away area and we put one in there. I think after that [the homer] he got back on track, but I would say maybe a little bit of inconsistency with some of his pitch shapes, with his slider. But I think the biggest thing is getting him to be aggressive over the plate.”

Many relievers — young and old — talk about going through “dead arm” periods during the course of spring training and then in the regular season, especially coming off a previous season with a lot of appearances. Loaisiga’s previous high in major-league appearances before the 57 last season was the 15 games he appeared in in 2019.

Blake said he does not believe Loaisiga is going through any kind of “dead arm” issues. The velocity readings on what generally is the righty’s most effective pitch, his sinker, back that up.

A sinker that averaged 99.16 mph last August and 98.79 in September averaged 97.51 mph in April and  97.61 this month. But while the velocity is off a tick from those later-season readings, it is in line with how Loaisiga started last season. His sinker, for instance, averaged 97.32 in April 2021 and 97.90 in May 2021, not dramatically different from the readings in those months this year.

“I feel like his velo is kind of trending back up as it’s starting to get warmer,” Blake said. “And, obviously, it was a short spring and he’s a guy who, being in Nicaragua and not having any contact with [because of the lockout], probably we were a little more cautious [with him] coming into camp, not sure exactly what the resources looked like for him down there. So I would expect him to come out of the gates maybe a touch slower than some of the other guys [after] a short spring. But I still think that he’s just got to get back to being confident and trusting his stuff a little bit more. The talent’s still there, and he shows flashes of it. Just hasn’t been quite as consistent as he was last year.”

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