Yankees starting pitcher Luis Gil delivers against the Seattle Mariners...

Yankees starting pitcher Luis Gil delivers against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

For the second straight start on Thursday, Luis Gil looked like a combination of Bob Feller and Pedro Martinez and vintage Doc Gooden.

One start after striking out 14 batters in six innings against the White Sox, Gil allowed one tainted single, walked two and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings in the Yankees’ 5-0 victory over Seattle at Yankee Stadium.

But Gil’s eventual value to the Yankees in the later part of this season may be more reminiscent of Mariano Rivera — the 1996 version of Rivera, before he became the Yankees’ closer.

Gil, who turns 26 on June 3 but is still officially a rookie, is 6-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 10 starts. He has struck out 70 in 55 innings.

It’s that last number that you should pay attention to. Gil, who threw a total of four minor-league innings in 2023 following Tommy John surgery, has never thrown more than the 108 2/3 he logged in 2021 since signing with the Minnesota Twins way back in 2015.

It’s unlikely Gil will be a rotation starter all season. With Gerrit Cole looking to return to the mound as soon as next month, the Yankees will have six viable starters if everyone stays healthy.

Manager Aaron Boone would not touch a “what are you doing to do when Cole returns” question on Thursday morning.

“It’s — whatever — three, four, five, six weeks away,” Boone said. “If at that point, we’re in this position, then that’s a good thing. We’ll do what we have to do, that we think is best for the team and for everyone involved.”

Here’s what would be best for the team: Move Gil to the bullpen for the second half of the season and playoffs and turn him into a devastating multi-inning weapon just as Rivera was on the way to the Yankees’ 1996 World Series title.

You might have forgotten that Rivera was a starter when he joined the Yankees in 1995 (his big-league debut was 29 years ago Thursday).

On July 4, 1995, Rivera struck out 11 batters — facing the White Sox, coincidentally — in eight shutout innings. It was by far the best of his 10 starts. And it was one of his last ever.

Rivera made the Hall of Fame because of his work as a reliever. In 1996, that work was as a rare (at the time) two-inning setup man for closer John Wetteland.

Gil’s future is as a starter. Boone insisted the Yankees do not have an innings limit plan for Gil, that they are just going to “pay attention to everything.”

Through an interpreter and with a sly smile, Gil said: “I don't have a specific limit. For me, the only limit is the limit of pitches for that day."

Gil threw 96 on Thursday, his last one at 97 miles per hour. Impressive.

But there will undoubtedly come a point this season when Gil will have to dial it back. It’s not in his short- or long-term interest to go from four innings in 2023 to 200 in 2024. And it makes no sense for the Yankees to have to shut down Gil for the season in, say, August, or limit his starts to four innings or only start him every 10th day.

That’s where the bullpen idea comes in. Imagine what Boone could do down the stretch if he has Gil for two innings 2-3 times a week. Imagine how much stronger the bullpen would look for the playoffs with Gil doing his best 1996 Rivera impression in front of closer Clay Holmes.

Actually, it isn’t that hard to imagine. Just look at what Gil did in the first two innings against the top six Mariners batters.

Strikeout looking (on a 99-mph fastball), grounder to first, pop-up to short, grounder to third, strikeout looking (93-mph changeup), strikeout looking (94-mph changeup).

Gil retired the next three batters, too. The Mariners didn’t have a hard-hit ball or a baserunner until J.P. Crawford led off the fourth by reaching on a 101-mph hit that Anthony Volpe got to with a slide on the backhand but dropped on the transfer. Volpe picked it up and threw, but way too late to get Crawford. If Volpe doesn't drop it, it's an out, and thoughts of a possible no-hitter would have filled the Bronx.

In 2025, Gil might be able to bring that kind of dominance for 200 innings as a starter and be a co-ace along with Cole.

In 2024? In the second half and (the Yankees hope) deep into October, how does Cole for six, Gil for two and Holmes for the ninth sound?

For the Yankees, it could be Mo-mentous.

Luis Gil has been far more successful as a starter in his rookie season than Mariano Rivera was in 1995 before he moved to the bullpen.

       Gil (2024)                                          Rivera (1995)

       10                    Starts                            10

       6-1                     W-L                             3-3

       2.11                   ERA                            5.94

       1.01                   WHIP                          1.68

       .143                   BAA                             .306

       55.1                   Innings                          50

       27                      Hits                                64

       70                      Strikeouts                      38                                          

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