NEW YORK – The first step for Yankees right-hander Clay Holmes in regaining his All-Star form from the first half of the season is getting healthy.
Assuming all goes well in Holmes’ scheduled live batting practice on Monday — New York’s final practice before they open the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday night — he’ll be able to check that box.
Holmes, who was New York’s closer for much of this year’s campaign before injuries and a setback derailed the end of his regular season, has not pitched since Sept. 26 when he was close with shoulder tension.
After starting to back up, Holmes and manager Aaron Boone are confident about the right-hander’s status for the ALDS. Barring an unforeseen setback, he will be on the roster. The question is when it will be able to fly.
“I definitely expect to be on the roster,” Holmes said at his locker Sunday morning. “It’s just a matter of if [I’m available to pitch in] Game 1 or Game 2. I think it just depends on how we go.”
Holmes added that he has “no issues” on his hands. His speed and command are in a good spot and he’s watching how he’d like to ride in the postseason.
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If he can make it back from Monday’s live and out of the bullpen in the ALDS, the focus shifts from his availability to his effectiveness. Holmes was virtually unhittable from April 9th to July 9th, posting a 0.23 ERA with 16 saves in 37 games. He was one of the best relievers in the sport, burying hitters with his elite sinker.
The rest of the way — including a stint on the injured list with back spasms — Holmes had a 5.92 ERA in 24 appearances and just four saves. He didn’t have the same command he started the year with, constantly working himself into trouble.
All signs point to Boone mixing and matching his high-leverage relievers against Cleveland, making decisions based on matchups rather than simply calling on Holmes in save situations. That may change, though. Perhaps some rest to end the season will help bring out Holmes’ best for when the games really count here in the month of October.
Otherwise, look for Scott Efross, Jonathan Loáisiga, Lou Trivino and Wandy Peralta (who is set to return from his own back injury) to take the ball with the game on the line in the ALDS and beyond.
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