King of the “Gil”: Yankees rookie Luis Gil is dominating, so how do the Yankees weigh the present vs his future?

It’s funny how problems solve themselves.

In Spring Training the Yankees had major question marks about its rotation.

Outside of reigning Cy Young award winner Gerrit Cole, the rest of the Yankees rotation was filled with red flags.

Carlos Rodon’s first year in pinstripes was a disaster. Cortes is coming off injury plagued season, and when healthy he was a far cry from his all-star season. Could Marcus Stroman handle the media while trying to return to all-star form?

Throw in the injury to Cole prior to the season and some questioned if the pitching would hold up even with a potential generational offense supporting it.

It is now 1/3rd of the way through the season and the Yankees have one of the best starting 5’s in baseball. They’re in the midst of a 12 game stretch where the starters are 10-1, with an opponent batting average of .160. Just an absurd run of dominance for the once red flag rotation.

And maybe the best of them has been rookie pitcher Luis Gil. The hard throwing right hander was supposed to be in AAA this season as he built himself back up from Tommy John surgery. But once the ace went down, Gil was given the chance to revive his career in the Bronx. He has taken the ball every 5th day, making the best of the chance.

After his dominate win vs the Mariners, Gil improved to 6-1, and his 2.11 ERA sat at the sixth best among MLB starting pitchers, an outcome few imagined when he took over for Cole with just seven MLB appearances to his ledger.

The Mariners entered the game with the seventh-most runs scored in baseball, and the Dominican Republic native blanked them for 6 1/3 innings. He struck out eight, walked two and allowed just one hit for the third time this season. His fastball averaged 96.7 mph, slightly up from its season average, and topped out at 98.7 mph.

The Yankees would love to turn off their brains, set Gil to start every fifth day and watch him dominate.

“He’s got that elite fastball,” Judge said. “That’s the No. 1 thing. He’s pumping it up 97, 98 at the top of the zone, mixing in and out. And then off of that, he’s got a 91 mph changeup. Having that nice combo, and both of them he’s throwing for strikes, and you’ve got to pick and choose what you’re going to go after. If you guess wrong, you’re in trouble.”

But Gil is too important, now and in the long term, for the Yankees to ignore the amount of work they have already given him.

They also might have too many pitchers for the five spots in their rotation. Yeah would’ve thought that back in March?

At 55 1/3 innings, Gil has already accumulated the third-most frames he’s ever pitched in a single season. Gil threw his most innings in a single season in 2019 when he totaled 96 between Low A and High A. And he threw just 29 2/3 innings combined in 2022 (25 2/3) and 2023 (four) due to Tommy John surgery.

Using purely innings has become an antiquated way to observe a pitcher’s workload, considering recent advances in medical and training technology. But it can be at least a rudimentary barometer.

“Physically,” Gil said via the team’s interpreter, “I feel pretty good.”

Boone said the Yankees are keeping a close eye on Gil. He didn’t rule out a workload limit at some point but said that currently it’s “full steam ahead.”

Pitching coach Matt Blake said the Yankees will use a variety of data points to track Gil’s readiness. In spring training he said the Yankees used workouts to get a baseline of what Gil looks like when he’s healthy, mentioning range of motion and “power output.” The team also uses slow-motion video to judge how his delivery progresses. The footage captures minute details regarding the shapes and speeds of his pitches, his release points and where he’s landing on the mound. The team also consults with Gil.

“Those types of things all combine to give us an image of where he’s currently at,” Blake said. “Hopefully he’s trending at least stable if not on the way up.”

The Yankees can, however, point to another member of their rotation as an example of their recent success in upping a starting pitcher’s workload drastically from one season to the next.

In 2023, Clarke Schmidt threw 159 innings over 33 games (32 starts) in his first full-season run as a major-league starting pitcher, posting a middling 4.64 ERA. He held up well until maybe the final month of the season, when his fastball velocity began to wane, Blake said. His career high in innings had been 111 1/3 at the University of South Carolina as a 20-year-old in 2016, a year before the Yankees drafted him in the first round. In 2022, he had pitched a combined 90 2/3 innings between the majors and Triple A.

This year, Schmidt has bounced back nicely with a 2.59 ERA and a 5-2 record in 10 starts. Blake called Schmidt’s progression a “proof of concept.”

And then there’s the matter of Cole. The Yankees will need to make room in their rotation for the 2023 AL Cy Young Award winner.

The problem: Who has to go?

With Gil’s help Thursday, Yankees starting pitchers set a franchise record, making 11 consecutive starts with five-plus innings and no more than two runs allowed. Their 2.91 rotation ERA was the third best in baseball, behind the Philadelphia Phillies (2.64) and Boston Red Sox (2.69).

Their highest ERA belongs to Nestor Cortes at just 3.29. Marcus Stroman(3-2, 3.05 ERA) and Carlos Rodón (5-2, 3.27 ERA) are career starting pitchers and highly unlikely to move to the bullpen. Cortes and Schmidt have experience there, with 58.2 percent of Cortes’ 115 career appearances coming in relief, though he’s been purely a starter since 2022. Gil hasn’t pitched in relief since he was in Triple A in 2021, but his fastball-changeup combination and ability to control his workload in shorter stints could tempt the Yankees to transition him to the bullpen at some point.

Boone didn’t rule out a six-man rotation when Cole returns, though it seems unlikely considering it’s not how they’ve operated in the past. But Boone added that he hasn’t given much thought to what happens when his ace comes back.

“If at that point we’re in this position, then that’s a good thing,” Boone said. “We’ll have to do what we have to do. We have to think what’s best for the team and everyone involved. In the baseball calendar, that’s still light years away in a lot of ways.”

Except Gil has already arrived, and though the Yankees can simply enjoy him now, they will have to figure out what to do with him eventually.

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