Home News Yankees’ Luis Gil slows down Diamondbacks in long-awaited return: ‘He did a...

Yankees’ Luis Gil slows down Diamondbacks in long-awaited return: ‘He did a heckuva job’

PHOENIX — As Luis Gil left the mound at Chase Field on Monday night, the starter received a rare road ovation from the large crowd of Yankees fans who made the trip to Arizona.

Gil had just held the Diamondbacks, the defending National League champs, to one run over 4.2 innings in a 5-2 Yankees win. He walked three, struck out six and totaled 84 pitches in the game, but his line was just the cherry on top of his return to a major league mound.

Thanks to Tommy John surgery, Gil had not pitched in The Show since May 12, 2022.

“After everything I went through, to be able to get back and be here, healthy and able to compete, it means a lot,” he said afterward.

Added Aaron Boone: “He did a heckuva job. He’s done a great job obviously all spring earning his way on this team.”

The manager added that he apologized to Gil for pulling him just one out shy of being able to qualify for a win. However, Gil had reached his count, and the Yankees aren’t going to push it with a pitcher who’s appeared in just nine professional games since 2022 began.

“Luis is certainly not someone I’m going to mess with coming back as we build him up,” Boone said. “I hated the fact that it was 4.2 [innings] and he was in a good spot to get the win, but his health and getting him built properly is more important there.”

For what it’s worth, Gil didn’t make a fuss about not getting the victory.

“I want to be pitching. Let’s be clear about that,” the 25-year-old said. “But at the same time, I understand that there’s a set amount of pitches that I’m under. So definitely didn’t feel bad about coming out of the game at that time.”

It’s an understandable mindset considering Gil was not supposed to be in the Yankees’ season-opening rotation.

However, Gerrit Cole’s injured elbow vacated a spot. A handful of hurlers, including highly-touted pitching prospect Will Warren, fought for the job, but Boone said Gil “kicked the door in” by tallying a 2.87 ERA and 23 strikeouts over 15.2 innings.

His most impressive outing of the spring came on March 11, when Gil struck out eight Phillies over 3.2 innings in Clearwater, Fla. The Yankees had already optioned Gil at that point, but his performance against a formidable Philadelphia lineup instantly changed his short-term standing in the organization.

“He threw himself right into the conversation on that day and was like, ‘Whoa.’ More than got our attention,” Boone said. “I don’t think it necessarily affected us long-term because we feel like he has a really high ceiling. We felt that way a couple of years ago. We felt that way at the start of camp. But in the short-term, that outing kind of put him in the conversation, and then he continued to back it up the rest of the spring.”

Gil said that staying healthy was his No. 1 goal entering camp, but he also reported “ready to do my job,” which hadn’t been clearly defined at the time. At best, he was an underdog among those vying to be one of the Yankees’ depth starters.

It helped that Gil, who enjoyed a successful debut in 2021, developed his secondary pitches. His fastball has always reached the high-90s with ease, but his slider and changeup — the latter in need of greater improvement — showed tremendous growth and promise this spring.

“It’s a pitch that he’s developed a lot of confidence in; the ability to throw it for a strike,” Boone said of Gil’s changeup. “The ability to throw it in any count. Which in turn even helps his fastball play a little bit more.

“And I would include the slider in there, too. But having the ability to land that pitch and being unpredictable with it really helped that fastball play.”

Gil used his changeup 20% of the time against the Diamondbacks on Monday, while his slider came in at an 18% clip. However, it was his fastball that stole the show.

Of Gil’s 84 pitches, 62 were heaters. Twenty-one of those clocked in at 98 mph. Gil, admittedly boosted by adrenaline, saw his fastball average 97.7 mph. It maxed out at an even 100.

“He’s got an electric fastball, and he’s not afraid to throw it,” said Austin Wells, who caught Gil for the first time on Monday. “So I think that when he’s in the zone with it, it’s already a hard pitch to hit, and then it just complements his off-speed.

“It’s just the confidence he has when he throws it. I think it just gets on guys, and he’s not afraid to throw it in any count, any part of the zone, to anybody. As a batter, when you’re facing a guy like that, it adds a little extra pressure to be on it. His fastball is one of the best in the game and best on the team, so it’s great that we have him going extended innings here as a starter.”

Gil’s workload has been a talking point, as the Yankees have said that he won’t necessarily be on an innings limit.

Teams can monitor performance and health in less arbitrary ways now. The Yankees will do so by evaluating Gil’s pitch metrics and profiles, biomechanics, velocity and recovery. They can test his strength and other related measurements in the weight room, too.

“There’s no hard number,” Matt Blake said at the end of camp. “Now, being realistic about maybe what to expect from this guy, he just hasn’t pitched competitively really for the last two years in any meaningful way from a build-up standpoint. So you’re not necessarily expecting him to go 180 innings. But at the same time, you’re not saying he can’t go 180 innings.”

Gil, meanwhile, is looking forward to increasing his pitch count next time out. He was still throwing 98 mph in the fifth inning on Monday, an intentional byproduct of his winter workouts.

“It was key for me in the offseason to work on my physique and be able to sustain a game and take a game deep,” he said.

Maybe next time Boone will let Gil get one more out. But for now, his first start back has the Yankees excited about what he can contribute.

“We were all super pumped for him to be out there,” Wells said. “He’s just very confident in who he is and his ability to get guys out. Having a guy on the mound like that, it’s a lot of fun to be behind the plate.”


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