Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake told reporters Wednesday that left-hander James Paxton is progressing well in his rehab from back surgery (Twitter links via Brendan Kuty of the New Jersey Star-Ledger). The left-hander went under the knife in early February, after which the Yankees announced a timetable of three to four months for his recovery. Paxton is throwing at his home in Wisconsin, and the club is optimistic about his recovery.
As notably, Blake revealed that right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga would’ve factored “heavily” into the team’s rotation picture had the season begun on time. Absent Paxton, Luis Severino and Domingo German, it was clear that left-hander Jordan Montgomery was the team’s fourth starter (behind Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ). Loaisiga was one of many candidates vying for the fifth spot — a race that also included Mike King, Deivi Garcia, Luis Cessa and perhaps non-roster invitees such as Chad Bettis and Nick Tropeano.
Loaisiga’s standing could be rendered moot with Opening Day pushed back indefinitely, as it appears increasingly likely that Paxton could be ready to suit up when (or if) the season does eventually commence. But it’s nevertheless telling that Loaisiga appears to have had a leg up on his competitors, as that could provide some insight into the organization’s contingency plans in the event of additional early-season injuries.
The 25-year-old Loaisiga has been plagued by durability issues himself, including last season, when a shoulder strain limited him to 80 2/3 innings between the minors and the big leagues. However, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus both ranked him among baseball’s 100 best prospects prior to the ’19 season. In a combined 88 2/3 minor league innings from 2017-18, he posted a 2.60 ERA with a 100-to-11 K/BB ratio.