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Domingo German became the Yankees’ second high-profile pitcher to work his way off the injured list this week. Prior to Wednesday’s game, German was moved to the active roster, sending Estevan Florial back to Triple-A.
German has thrown 97 quality innings for the Yankees this season, but has spent most of August and September rehabbing an inflamed right shoulder. His last start in the big leagues came on July 31 in Miami, and in preparation for the relief role he’ll assume now, German made two relief appearances in Triple-A on Sept. 14 and 18.
Now that he’s with the big club again, the Yankees are hoping for a Luis Severino-type transition to the bullpen, with the plan being to limit him to two or three innings at the most.
“I’d love to get Domingo in there, but the game will dictate that,” manager Aaron Boone said before Wednesday’s game, German’s first on the active roster in nearly two months. “At the end of the day this is a really good pitcher that we’re getting back.”
In three relief outings this season, German lacked the effectiveness he’s shown as a starter. An emergency root canal in Seattle during the team’s July series with the Mariners briefly pushed him out of the rotation, leading to him moonlighting as a reliever with a 7.50 ERA in six innings.
Back in 2018, German had a longer stay in the bullpen, pulling relief duties seven times for 17.1 innings. That stint was much better (3.12 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 17.1 frames), which gives the Yankees confidence that he can help them in the late innings again in 2021.
“That was a time when Domingo was starting to solidify himself,” Boone said of that time three years ago. “He is comfortable doing it, he’s used to doing it. So there’s a little bit of comfort in that”
The Yankees are in the second week of Gleyber Torres’ post-shortstop era.
Torres officially made the move to second base on Sept. 13 and doesn’t seem likely to get much playing time, if any at all, at shortstop for the Yankees again. With the more reliable Gio Urshela implanted at shortstop and DJ LeMahieu handling himself well at third base, the re-jiggered infield is almost sure to start each of the remaining games.
“So far, [it’s going] pretty well,” Boone assessed. “I would say in DJ’s case, the biggest thing was when he hurt his arm on the road trip in Miami. But DJ’s a really good third baseman. As long as he’s physically sound, I was very comfortable with him moving over there.”
LeMahieu made two errors at third base in the Cleveland series over the weekend — one throwing and one fielding — but has otherwise been rock solid since making the full-time move across the diamond. The Yankees’ defensive shifts mean he’s still sometimes on the second base side of the bag, and on Tuesday he was the relay man on a 6-5-3 double play, handling a throw from Urshela just as he did countless times when he was playing second and Urshela was playing third.
“Gio’s handled the move to shortstop quite well,” Boone marveled. “It’s not exactly how we drew it up but I do feel like we’re capable of playing really well with this alignment.”
Until booting a grounder on Wednesday, Urshela was errorless at shortstop since taking over for Torres, who played second base during his rookie year in 2018. Torres has settled back in with ease, flashing the leather on Monday for a fine backhanded play and cross-body throw in the second inning.
“I made too many errors [at shortstop],” Torres said when the shift happened. “Where we are right now we can’t make any. I feel really good moving to second. I just want to be part of the team. [Boone] asked me to play second and I said yes.”
KING OF LONG RELIEF
Michael King missed most of July, all of August, and the first nine days of September due to a workout accident that caused a debilitating finger contusion. He returned with an understandably rocky appearance given the length of his injury, but since then, King has been unhittable.
Starting with his relief appearance on Sept. 14 in Baltimore — just his second after coming off the injured list — King has pitched three times, getting four outs or more in each outing and allowing zero hits over 6.1 total innings. In that span the 26-year-old has struck out eight of the 20 batters pitted against him. King picked up a hold on Tuesday against the Rangers, who he blanked for 1.1 innings, getting three strikeouts while flashing a 97 mile per hour fastball.
“I’m excited with what we’re seeing,” Boone said of King’s rejuvenated stuff. “He’s taken to the role. He’s coming in and pounding the strike zone. I feel like he’s in a really good spot for us and is a guy that we’re counting on.”