The Yankees somewhat quietly signed veteran lefty Dan Jennings to a minor league contract earlier this month — there was no formal announcement from the big league club — and they’ve now bumped him up to the Triple-A level after a pair of outings with Class-A Tampa, per Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times-Tribune (Twitter link). Catcher Ryan Lavarnway was released from the Yankees’ Triple-A club to make room on the roster.
Jennings, 32, scuffled through a nightmarish stint with the Nationals earlier this season. In eight appearances, he allowed eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits and seven walks in just 4 2/3 innings. Jennings did whiff nine hitters in that brief stint, but the Nats didn’t see enough to keep Jennings around in their floundering bullpen. He was designated for assignment and elected free agency after clearing waivers.
Things have gone better in Jennings’ two outings in High-A as he’s ramped back up after a near two-month layoff between outings. He’s pitched a combined five innings and allowed one run on three hits and no walks with six strikeouts. And it’s worth noting that unlike many reclamation projects who sign minor league deals, Jennings isn’t far removed from big league success at all. Just last season, Jennings pitched to a 3,22 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 0.84 HR/9 and a 56.1 percent ground-ball rate in 64 1/3 innings with the Brewers. Left-handed batters posted a terrible .226/.266/.304 batting line against him.
The Yankees’ bullpen is obviously a rather strong unit, but the clubs lacks a second setup lefty beyond Zack Britton. Closer Aroldis Chapman, of course, throws from the left side but is typically reserved for save opportunities. New York currently has Nestor Cortes Jr. in a long relief role, but he’s been shuttled back and forth between the Bronx and Scranton so far in 2019. Jennings will give the team a potential option to be that second lefty, and his move up to Triple-A seemingly makes him a near-term option, should a need arise.
As for Lavarnway, the former Red Sox/Braves/A’s/Pirates/Orioles backstop will return to the open market after hitting .213/.333/.315 with three home runs in 129 trips to the plate with the RailRiders. The 31-year-old is a career .208/.268/.326 hitter in 426 MLB plate appearances and a .272/.364/.424 batter in nearly 2,000 Triple-A plate appearances.