Posted on August 2, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The New York Yankees have seen all they need to see from Sonny Gray as a starting pitcher. Yankees GM Brian Cashman announced Thursday that Gray will be moving to the bullpen. Lance Lynn, who the Yankees acquired at the trade deadline, will take his place in the starting rotation.
In 21 starts this season, Gray is 8-8 with a 5.56 ERA. He has pitched nothing like he did last season when he was a key addition for the Yankees at the trade deadline. Instead, Gray’s performance is more akin to 2016 when he was 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA with Oakland.
Gray appeared to have turned a corner after the all-star break. In his first two starts following the break, Gray allowed two earned runs on six hits over 10.1 innings. However, those starts came against the Mets and Royals, two of the worst teams in the majors. During Wednesday’s start against a depleted Orioles lineup, Gray allowed seven runs in 2.2 innings. It turned out to be the last straw for the Yankees.
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“At the end of the day, I want them to do whatever is best to help us win, whatever that may be,” Gray said after Wednesday’s game before his move to the bullpen was official. “Whatever happens, if I get the ball in five days, then I’m going to take it and I’m going to go compete, and I’m going to do my best and I’m going to try to put us in a good position to win the game. But if not, then I’m going to be right there doing whatever I’m called upon (to do).”
Gray’s demotion, no matter how justified, comes at an inopportune time for the Yankees. The team had to put J.A. Happ on the DL with hand, foot, and mouth disease just one start into his Yankees career. Happ shouldn’t be out long, but even with Lynn replacing Gray in the rotation, the Yankees are down to four starters. The club is also in the midst of a 21-day stretch without an off day, so getting by with four starters until Happ returns will be tough.
On top of that, Lynn isn’t the most reliable pitcher either. He posted a 5.10 ERA in 20 starts with the Twins this season. New York was planning on him being part of the bullpen. He may not be much better than Gray over an extended period of time. However, he did toss 4.1 shutout innings in relief of Gray on Wednesday.
It remains to be seen if Gray will have a chance to work his way back into the rotation before the end of the season. The Yankees have a deep bullpen, so they aren’t likely to need him in high-leverage situations. The best-case scenario for the Yankees would be to see enough improvement in Gray to move him back into the rotation. Of course, Lynn’s performance and Happ’s absence will also be factors.
Meanwhile, the Yankees begin a four-game series with the Red Sox on Thursday. New York is currently 5.5 games back of Boston. Without at least a split of the series, the Yankees could see their hopes of winning the AL East begin to fade away. However, when it comes to Gray’s spot in the rotation, they didn’t have much choice but to take him out. Now they have to hope the move pays off one way or another.