“Just a phone call away” is a phrase linked to players who reach Double A. That was the case for Jonathan Loaisiga once the Yankees promoted him to Trenton on May 3. From there it didn’t take long.
The 23-year-old Nicaraguan righthander got the call Wednesday, arrived for pregame workouts at the Stadium on Thursday and will be the Yankees’ starting pitcher against the Rays on Friday. Loaisiga is the choice to fill Masahiro Tanaka’s spot in the rotation while his injured hamstrings heal.
Loaisiga opened the season with Class A Tampa and has made 10 minor-league starts, going 6-1 with a 3.00 ERA. Control and command of the strike zone are his calling cards, and likely the major reason general manager Brian Cashman put him on the 40-man roster in the offseason. In 45 innings, Loaisiga has recorded 58 strikeouts and issued only four walks. In 11 games at low Class A in 2017, he pitched 32 2⁄3 innings with 33 strikeouts and three walks.
Aaron Boone said Loaisiga has “a really good arm, really simple athletic delivery.” Boone said he exuded “a confidence where he is unaffected by anything going on around him. I’m really excited to see him pitch.
“He’s really talented. I think he’s going to be a really good pitcher in this league. The reason he’s the guy we chose is we feel like his stuff is excellent, but his delivery and everything is low maintenance enough that it should allow him to step up here and be representative right away.”
Loaisiga’s accelerated ascent the past two months starkly contrasts the frustrating and arctic pace of his first five years in pro ball. He was an 18-year-old in the Giants’ organization in 2013 and 8-1 with a 2.75 ERA before he was beset by shoulder injuries. He didn’t pitch in ’14 or ’15 and was released.
The Yankees signed him before 2016, and his first professional start since 2013, for Class A Charleston, was also his last of the season. He had Tommy John surgery and was out until last June until he returned for those 11 appearances.
“It’s been a tough road for me to get here and now it’s about enjoying this moment and enjoying this opportunity, and I want to do the best I can,” Loaisiga said through an interpreter.
The call-up from Double-A is still rare enough that Loaisiga said he was “surprised,” although he had to think it was a possibility. He was told there was an outside chance he would start in the June 4 doubleheader at Detroit. When that didn’t happen, he returned to “concentrating on pitching and doing my job there.”
Boone said the plan is to have Loaisiga as a rotation fill-in for Tanaka. “But you never know, too,” he said. “When opportunity knocks, things happen faster than you expect.”