Yankees’ gift from nowhere a big reason for their strong start

The reason the Yankees didn’t pursue Orlando Hernandez too hard in 1996 was because of his half-brother, Livan. It’s also forgotten that Hideki Irabu received a much bigger fanfare in 1997 than El Duque did a year later.

After all, Hernandez had been banned from Cuban baseball because authorities feared he would defect like Liban. So when the Yankees signed El Duque to a four-year, $6.6 million contract in March 1998, he hadn’t pitched in over a year.

That’s why Hernandez became something of a gift out of nowhere when he finally arrived two months into what already felt like a magical season. He had a stance that Irabu didn’t have. He had a wealth of pitches and arm angles. He helped make an extraordinary team memorable.

Yankees great Orlando Hernandez threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees’ 6-1 victory over the White Sox. USA TODAY Sports (via Reuters Con)

He threw out the first pitch on Saturday, and another phenom named Luis Gil appeared out of nowhere and broke the Yankees’ rookie strikeout record with 14, the previous record set by Hernandez on August 13, 1998, with 13. I watched it exceed the . Comes in pinstripe shades. And when I saw El Duque outside the Yankees’ clubhouse after the Yankees won their sixth straight game, 6-1, against the White Sox, he unilaterally said, “Wow, Lewis Gil, he’s special.”

surely. There are many reasons why the Yankees are the best in the AL at 32 wins and 15 losses. This is a machine that delivers high performance in all areas.

On Saturday, for example, there appeared to be no noticeable difference between where Yankees batting practice ended and where White Sox starting pitcher Brad Keller began. He faced 21 batters in four innings, 10 of whom hit balls over 100 mph. Three were by Juan Soto, who hit two of the Yankees’ four home runs and an RBI. Oh, by the way, Soto is 4 months younger than Gil. Two of those were by Giancarlo Stanton, who had a double and a home run on his comeback tour, giving him two hits in four consecutive games. He retired 9 out of 10 batters with the combination of Nick Vardy and Dennis Santana, lowering his second-best Penn ERA to 2.54.

But let’s not forget how the Yankees and all of their fans felt when it was announced on March 16 that Gerrit Cole was suspended with a sore elbow. Or maybe it just touched a nerve, even after the “good news” was that the ace would be out for at least two months, and probably more. Cole was considered the club’s most essential player, and there were concerns about the health and temperament of the rest of the rotation.

But that group was great. Gil, Nestor Cortez, Carlos Rodon, Clark Schmidt and Marcus Stroman make up the only rotation in the majors with five players eligible for the ERA title, with each member’s ERA+ It is 110 or more. The rotation’s ERA of 3.00 is third best in the majors.

But here’s the problem. Gil is a gift that came from nowhere. He did not pitch last season after Tommy John surgery. He left the Yankees vowing to return a better version, especially improving his physical fitness. He joined the first Yankee cutout of the spring on March 3, but he redoubled his efforts to prove he belonged. Every time I went out in the spring, scouts came up. Still, the bar to succeed Cole was low. Except he was basically Cole. Cole, who won the Cy Young Award last year, posted a 2.63 ERA. Gil is 2.39. He ranks second in the majors in batting average (.154) and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (11.39).

Lewis Gil broke the Yankees’ rookie strikeout record with 14 strikeouts. AP

And if there’s one quality he seems to share with Hernandez, it’s unfazed.

With two outs in the first inning, Andrew Benintendi hit a check-swing RBI double, and then Paul DeJong walked, loading the bases. Pitching coach Matt Blake came out and reminded Gill to stay with his mechanics. Jose Trevino reiterated that Gil was throwing a great ball. Anthony Rizzo served as a hype man to energize the right.

The Twins traded Gill, 19, to backup outfielder Jake Cave in March 2018. Robert Szabo of the New York Post

The Twins traded the 19-year-old Gill in March 2018 for backup outfielder Jake Cave. The reason for this was that they thought he was a two-pitch pitcher (fastball and slider) with poor control, or that he had the qualities of a reliever. But part of Gill’s determination to improve is adding a high-end changeup, and the pitch-whispering Trevino said Gill hit the White Sox catcher at 97 mph to avoid a bases-loaded conundrum. He asked Corey Lee for four consecutive changeups before freezing.

Want a sign you’re not panicking? With this, in this year’s game against Gill, opponents have dropped to 2-for-27 with runners in scoring position. Want signs of continued growth? After the end of the first inning, Gill had just one more three-ball count and no walks. From the second to sixth innings, he threw first-pitch strikes to 12 out of 18 batters, won 0-2 or 1-2 in the 10th inning, and had seven consecutive strikeouts from the 4th to 6th innings.

As a result, the Yankees held their opponents to one point or less for five consecutive games, the longest such streak in a franchise since the Yankees completed their biggest comeback of six consecutive games from September 24 to 30, 1978. . Until now. This club plays up front and leads the American League East. There are many reasons.

There is no greater gift than the gift given to us out of nowhere: the name Lewis Gill.