Jonathan Loaisiga entered the season with sky-high expectations and some observers waiting for the right-hander to take over from Aroldis Chapman as Yankees closer.
But after emerging as one of the best relievers in the league a year ago, Loaisiga has gotten off to a slow start.
The Yankees and pitching coach Matt Blake helped the right-hander make some minor mechanical adjustments recently, but he was still hurt by a three-run homer from the Orioles’ Austin Hays on Tuesday.
Given the lack of early results and the fact his velocity has dipped slightly, it seemed fair to wonder about the health of the 27-year-old, but Blake insisted Loaisiga is fine physically.
“I think it’s a product of hitters being aware of who he is and he has to combat that,” Blake said before the Yankees’ 5-2 win over the Orioles on Wednesday night. “His velocity will go up as we go on, but so far, his slider hasn’t had as much lateral break and his sinker hasn’t been sinking as much. He just hasn’t been as sharp.”
That has resulted in a drop-off in strikeouts and an increase in walks. He is averaging 8.1 strikeouts and 6.8 walks per nine innings through 6 ²/₃ innings after averaging 8.8 and 2.0 last season in 70 ²/₃ innings.
“There are little things we have to iron out and get him back to where he can open up different options and not be one-dimensional by pitching up and in and then slider away,” Blake said. “He’s not quite the same version [as last year].”
Manager Aaron Boone has maintained his faith in Loaisiga, calling on him in the eighth inning Tuesday, when he hung a breaking ball to Hays, which resulted in the three-run homer. He gave up three home runs all of last season and had allowed two already this year.
“You’re gonna take lumps at some point,” Boone said. “He’s taken some shots here early in the season. I’m not overly alarmed. All the equipment is there. The stuff is there. He’s just got to dial in his command from him. He’ll have to fight through this stretch when he’s gotten popped a little bit and we have to make sure he understands how good a pitcher he is.”
Jameson Taillon, who will make his fourth start of the season on Thursday afternoon, said while he has heard from other pitchers that they’ve been able to tell differences in the baseballs being used from outing to outing, he hasn’t noticed anything.
“I haven’t had any problems,” Taillon said.
Taillon was involved in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations during the MLB lockout in the offseason. He said the consistency of the baseball used did not come up, but he is confident the MLBPA and the league can continue to work on the issue.
“I think everyone is trying to figure out the right sweet spot,” Taillon said of the two sides. “I don’t think it’s some grand scheme by MLB to try to mess up the game. They’re trying their best.”
Another game without an error extended the Yankees’ streak to 11, which is their longest in a single season since 2012.
The Yankees entered Wednesday having played 11 games in The Bronx and six away. They have put up wildly different numbers at home and on the road. They had an OPS of .821 and 20 homers at the Stadium and just a .558 OPS with two home runs away from home. Last season, the numbers were far more even, with a .720 OPS at home and .738 on the road.
DJ LeMahieu went 0-for-3 to snap a 12-game hitting streak. He leads the team in hits with 19 and his OPS of .878 trails only Anthony Rizzo.
LeMahieu is also hitting for more power, a product of him being healthier than he was for most of 2021, when he played through a sports hernia.
“He just looks really good,” Boone said. “He uses the big part of the field as well as anyone and goes the other way as well as anyone. It’s good to see him drive it that way too.”