New York Yankees left-hander Zack Britton will begin a minor-league rehab assignment with the Low Class-A Tampa Tarpons on Wednesday, manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday, according to The Athletic. Britton, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, will not throw more than 15 pitches in his first game action since last August.
The Yankees are currently dealing with both injury and poor performance in their bullpen. All-Star closer Clay Holmes is on the injured list with back trouble, and trade deadline addition Scott Effross joined him on the shelf this past weekend. Effross is dealing with a shoulder issue. Aroldis Chapman has been unreliable pretty much all season as well.
Boone said he plans to "mix and match" in the ninth inning with Holmes and Effross sidelined, and Monday night Jonathan Loáisiga recorded a four-out save. He is the 11th pitcher to record a save for the Yankees this season, a new single-season franchise record. New York's active bullpen currently looks like this:
- High leverage: RHP Jonathan Loáisiga, LHP Wandy Peralta, RHP Lou Trivino
- Medium leverage: LHP Lucas Luetge, RHP Ron Marinaccio
- Low leverage: RHP Luke Bard, LHP Aroldis Chapman?
- Long man: RHP Clarke Schmidt
Britton, 34, was limited to 18 1/3 innings last season by persistent hamstring trouble in the first half, then elbow trouble in the second half. He eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in September. Tommy John surgery typically comes with a 14-16 month rehab these days, though Britton has pushed things aggressively in an effort to return this year.
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"I felt like the Yankees, (GM Brian) Cashman, took a shot on me and I want to hold up my end of the bargain," Britton told the New York Post after having elbow reconstruction. "I wouldn't mind finishing my career here. So I don't even want to come back to show other teams I'm still the pitcher I was before. The Yankees put a lot of faith in me and I want to do right by them."
Britton is in the final season of what amounted to a four-year, $53 million contract after his club option was picked up. The two-time All-Star joined the Yankees at the 2018 trade deadline and re-signed with the team after that season. He essentially gave up closing to remain with New York and has worked primarily as a setup man when healthy the last four seasons.
Despite having baseball's worst record in August (6-14), the Yankees are 75-48 and have an eight-game lead in the AL East.