With MLB slated to have only a 60-game season, the bullpen will be an important part of a team’s roster. Pitching will be, as always, at a premium. But, with the shortened season and games potentially being cancelled due to COVID, more pressure will fall to bullpen depth. So far, Trevor Bauer, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, and Patrick Corbin will miss time on the mound with various injuries. Those are some big names and big shoes to fill.
For the New York Yankees, their number two starter Masahiro Tanaka has already missed time. He is feeling the effects of being hit by a Giancarlo Stanton line drive during a team scrimmage on July 4th. In only their third game, the Yankees had to use an ”opener” relying on their bullpen to get them the win. Last night, one of the Yankees newest call ups, Brooks Kriske made his MLB debut.
The Yankees drafted Brooks Kriske in the sixth round of the 2016 MLB draft. Unfortunately, the former USC Trojan needed Tommy John surgery that season and he missed all of 2017 as a result. But, he had a solid 2018 season recording five wins, 15 saves and fanning 80 in Single-A.
However, a 2019 season that saw him demoted from Double-A back to Single-A left Kriske feeling unsure about his future with the Yankees. “I was getting older and I kind of felt like I was on my last legs,” he said. “I’ve been telling my friends and family that two years ago I wasn’t sure that this opportunity would ever come,” Kriske said. “I was a 24-year-old in short-season A-ball.”
The Call Up
The Yankees obviously saw something in the right-hander. His 2.08 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 43 innings at AA Trenton in 2019 earned him a spot on the Yankees 40-man roster coming out of spring. “I was never going to quit,” he said. “We get one shot of this. Most of us are kind of wired the same way. We’re not going to quit. Definitely went into spring training in 2019 not sure if I was going to make it through spring training. So I put a lot of work in during the offseason and it paid off.”
When the Yankees sent down Clint Frazier after the second game of the season, Kriske was one of the relievers called up. After four years, Kriske finally made his MLB debut against the Baltimore Orioles.
Following another dominating performance from Yankee ace Gerrit Cole, Kriske came on in the bottom of the ninth attempting to preserve a win. After walking the first batter he faced, Kriske induced a flyout for the first out of the inning. Then, using a fastball that topped out at 96 mph, he struck out Pedro Severino and DJ Stewart back-to-back. The final line: four batters faced with two strikeouts. Yankees win 9-3. All in all, a pretty impressive MLB debut.
It was a surreal moment for Kriske and getting to pitch in the same game as Cole who he calls ”the best pitcher on the planet” was special too. In fact, Cole presented Kriske with the lineup card at the end of the game.
For Yankee fans, they can only hope that Brooks Kriske will become yet another dominant arm in what is one of the best bullpens in baseball. Regardless, it is always special to get to see a player live out his dreams of playing baseball. With all that currently going on in the world, it was a lot of fun getting to witness Brooks Kriske’s dream come true.
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