Imagine you’re the Red Sox. Locked in a nightly struggle with the Yankees, scoreboard-watching since late April, knowing that every game could be critical in the final tally for the AL East title. Back at Fenway, they see Jordan Montgomery lost for the season to TJ surgery, then Masahiro Tanaka is subtracted for an indefinite period due to double-hamstring blowouts.
The Yankees’ only weakness, a presumably thin rotation, suddenly seemed like it was stretched to the breaking point. Up north, Red Sox Nation smiled gleefully.
But a funny thing happened on the way to that anticipated rotation meltdown in the Bronx. Not only did the Yankees survive those body blows, they reloaded. And would it be crazy to suggest the rotation could be even better since Brian Cashman reached down to the minors for 25-year-old Domingo German and 23-year-old Jonathan Loaisiga?
Seriously, look at what German did in Tuesday night’s 7-2 victory over the Mariners, a team that was 27-12 since May 8, tied with the Astros for the most wins during that span. German shrugged off an unearned run in the first inning to then go seven, allowing only two hits and striking out nine (without a walk). At one point, German retired 18 straight before Nelson Cruz took him deep in the seventh, and after 96 pitches, Aaron Boone actually considered sending him out for the eighth.
German didn’t just beat the Mariners. He dominated them. And made it appear easy. In only his eighth major-league start.
“He’s really talented,” Boone said. “He’s got three really good pitches. I think the question is, can he be a full-time starter, and he continues — it seems like with every outing — to prove that he is capable of that.”
You may have heard the Yankees, planning ahead for the playoffs, are in the market for another established starter for their rotation, such as a J.A. Happ or Cole Hamels. Hal Steinbrenner said as much just last week, even putting away cash for a deal. But is it possible that German can be trusted in the role vacated by Montgomery, and Loaisiga can be a reliable backup plan in the case of another hole opening up?
That’s a big responsibility to lay on these young shoulders, but German is quickly building a respectable early resume, and Loaisiga is getting his second audition Wednesday against the Mariners. German has been a strikeout-machine, stacking up 72 in 60 1⁄3 innings, and he matched Luis Severino Tuesday night with at least nine Ks in his past three starts as the longest such streak by a Yankee since 2012.
“It’s been a dream of mine to pitch in the big leagues, to open games and be a starter,” German said through his interpreter. “I’ve had a lot of experience in the minors. I trust in myself and I just want to keep pitching and hopefully finish my career here with the Yankees.”
German shouldn’t have to worry about going anywhere just yet. While it’s always possible the Yankees could try to sell high on a young starter, to flip him for someone with a flashier track record, why can’t German or Loaisiga follow the same career arc as Severino, another promising arm who rewarded the team’s faith by turning into a Cy Young-caliber starter?
That’s the line Cashman is walking here, but it’s great to have options, and the Yankees are producing Terminator-quality arms as if they were manufacturing cyborgs down at Scranton and Trenton. After watching German stifle the Mariners, Boone likely can’t wait to see how Loaisiga follows up his five scoreless innings (and six Ks) from last Friday’s win over the Rays. Seattle is a big step up in weight class, but these two youngsters — who together could squeeze into one of Aaron Judge’s pant legs — certainly seem prepared for whatever they’re thrown into.
“I give a lot of credit to the organization and the way they kind of bring these guys along,” Boone said. “But I think it’s coupled with the fact that we got some guys with really good DNA and character. Just who they are internally, having the ability to come up here and really handle things incredibly well.”
One after the other, a conveyor belt of young pitching talent. The Red Sox can’t afford for anyone else to get hurt in the Bronx.