NEW YORK — Zack Britton might have played his last game in pinstripes Friday night, as the New York Yankees returned the veteran left-handed reliever to the injured list after he struggled in his attempt to come back early from Tommy John surgery.
After being removed from New York’s 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles the night before because of left arm fatigue, manager Aaron Boone announced Saturday morning that Britton would go back on the injured list, in effect ending his 2022 season just over a week after he was activated off the IL.
“He’s doing pretty well, actually. Basically, it’s just something that we are kind of running out of time here,” Boone explained. “And having a little bit of fatigue last night, it’s one of those things that you don’t want to power through that and reach for more and then do some damage. He’s in a good spot heading into the offseason, so just continuing with that.”
Britton, who has 154 career saves in 11 major league seasons with the Yankees and Orioles, is eligible for free agency after the World Series. The southpaw went through a taxing rehab in his attempt to return to play less than a year after undergoing left elbow reconstruction surgery and having a bone chip removed Sept. 9, 2021. Britton was activated from the 60-day injured list Sept. 22.
Boone restated before the Saturday game against Baltimore that the elbow checked out fine and he praised Britton’s determination in his comeback attempt.
“I’m just appreciative of how hard he’s worked to get to this point, to give himself a chance, obviously, coming back quick by Tommy John’s standards,” Boone said. “The rehab’s gone really well. It’s just that final sharpness, and at this point in the season he’s just kind of up against [the clock] there. He worked his tail off to put himself in this position and give himself an opportunity and I certainly admire that.”
Britton and the Yankees are already engaged in preliminary conversations about a possible return to the team next season, sources told ESPN. He is in the final season of a three-year, $39 million deal with New York.
The Yankees selected Jacob Barnes’ contract and he will take Britton’s spot in the bullpen, but that will likely be a short-term solution for the team, which expects the return of several bullpen arms soon. Wandy Peralta (back), Miguel Castro (shoulder) and Albert Abreu (elbow) could be options for the Yankees for their last regular-season series, a four-game set against the Texas Rangers in Arlington that begins Monday.
Boone added that the Yankees will finish out the regular season one man short in the pen because they will keep Clay Holmes off the IL in order for him to be postseason-eligible. Holmes has been shut down for several days with right rotator cuff inflammation, for which he received a cortisone shot Thursday. Boone said Holmes won’t pitch again until the American League Division Series starts Oct. 11.
“Based on the injury, I think it’ll be a week of no-throw. I think we’re day five right now. So, he should start to ramp up early this week,” Boone said. “If that goes well, that should put him in line to be in play for the division series.”
Holmes said Friday night that the situation was “nothing too worrisome” and that working out at the Yankees’ alternate site will be enough for him to be postseason-ready.
“Some rest and build back up, and things will be good there for the division series,” Holmes said.
With the three-game wild-card format in its inaugural postseason, the Yankees will have five days off heading into the ALDS. They now have a plan in place for an alternate workout site to keep hitters and pitchers game-ready, hosted by the Somerset Patriots, the club’s Double-A affiliate.
“We have the alternate site lined up, where we have I think eight or nine pitchers. They’ll work out and kind of house in Somerset,” Boone explained. “On the days they’re scheduled to go we’ll have live pitchers there to go along with our own pitchers that will get into some live scenarios probably as well. Friday, Saturday, Sunday [Oct. 7-9] will be a lot of live scenarios for hitters and for pitchers. We have a pretty good plan laid out to try and keep guys sharp.”
One of the hitters who will probably benefit the most from the alternate site is Matt Carpenter. He is close to being fully recovered from the left foot fracture he suffered during an at-bat in Seattle on Aug. 9 and has progressed enough that he expects to be an option for the Yankees as they close out the season in Arlington. Carpenter, a Texas native, lives in nearby Fort Worth.
Boone said he hopes Carpenter will be an available bat off the bench in the postseason. Carpenter has been hitting in the cage and taking live batting practice this week.
“That’s exciting to think about,” Boone said about the possibility of Carpenter being a part of the postseason roster. “He’s doing really well. The hitting is going well. And he ran on the field today. And with the week ahead and what we have lined up, pitching-wise, with the offsite. Hopefully, he should be able to rack up a lot of live at-bats over the next week or 10 days to put himself in a good spot basis. Hitting has gone really well. Running today, I know that went well, so he’s in a pretty good place.”
Carpenter agreed to a one-year contract with the Yankees at the end of May, a week after he was released from the Rangers’ minor league system. In 47 games with the Yankees, Carpenter was one of their biggest contributors at the plate, hitting .305 with 19 homers, 35 RBIs and a 1.138 OPS.