Clay Holmes is the Yankees best reliever right now – The Mercury News

CHICAGO — With a two-run lead to protect heading into the ninth inning on Sunday, Aaron Boone wanted Clay Holmes on the mound. The Yankees’ right-handed reliever has pushed himself into the manager’s circle of trust very quickly. The 29-year-old could very easily be closing games as this season goes on.

“He’s throwing a bowling ball out there,” one American League scout said. “I will admit it, my (scouting report) on him from the Pirates did not see this happening. They’ve eliminated his four-seam fastball and that sinker is just a heavy bowling ball.”

Since being acquired by the Yankees from the Pirates, Holmes has unlocked something that has made him one the most effective relievers the Yankees have these days. By eliminating the four-seam fastball, Holmes can focus on the sinker, slider and occasionally a curveball.

That has given him an outrageous ground ball percentage of 81.8% and a just over 2% fly ball rate.

Holmes has the lowest walk rate (3.1) of his career and the second-highest strikeout rate (26.6) of his career.

This comes on the heels of Aroldis Chapman struggling when the Yankees are already looking to use different relievers in the ninth inning.

On Saturday night, Chapman gave up the walk-off single, after walking a batter, in the Yankees only loss in this four game series. While his velocity his is still among the top in baseball, Chapman ‘s average fastball velocity is down almost two miles per hour.

His command has been an issue the last few years. In 11.1 innings pitched this season, he has already walked nine batters. He’s among the bottom 3% in walks per nine innings in the majors right now. His hard-hit % his is the highest since 2015, when Statcast began recording it.

The Yankees sat down with Chapman, 34, this spring and talked to him about being used in different, high-leverage positions. That meant they would need other relievers to step up and close at times.

“(Jonathan Loaisiga) can be in there. We’ve seen (Chad Green) in there,” Boone said. “It kind of depends where we’re at, what team we’re facing, where we are in their order and what they have on the bench. But today if we’re coming back around to the top of their order with those good right-hand hitters, and it was that spot I was gonna go with Clay.”

Right now, he’s their best option.

Loaisiga is pitching to a 5.93 ERA with eight walks and nine earned runs over 13.2 innings pitched. He’s given up three home runs. Green has been better with a 3.38 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched over 12 appearances. He has also struggled a bit with the walks, issuing five.


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