Zack Britton’s comeback has fallen short. The left-hander who exited Friday night’s game with “arm fatigue” was placed on the injured list Saturday and likely will not pitch for the Yankees again. The 34-year-old had hoped to come back from 2021 Tommy John surgery to pitch in the postseason.
“I think basically it’s just something that we’re kind of running out of time here,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, “and having a little bit of fatigue last night, it’s like one of those things you don’t want to power through and reach for more and then do some damage as you’re coming back.
“But he’s in a good spot heading into the offseason.”
Britton had the updated version of Tommy John surgery, which places a protective brace or sleeve around the ulnar collateral ligament. That had him and the Yankees hoping he could make a faster comeback. He made his big league debut this season on Sept. 24, just 12 and a half months after the surgery.
‘I’m just appreciative of how hard he’s worked to get to this point and to give himself a chance,” Boone said. “The rehab is going really well. I feel like a lot of things are lined up. It’s just that final sharpness and at this point in the season just got up against it there. But, yeah, he worked his tail off to put himself in this position and give himself an opportunity and certainly admire that.”
Britton is in the final year of his four-year, $53 million deal with the Yankees. An elite closer with the Orioles, the Yankees acquired him at the trade deadline in 2018. Britton made 136 appearances for the Bombers, mostly setting up for Aroldis Chapman, and pitched to a 2.75 ERA with 15 saves.
Britton made it very clear when he returned that he was not worried about pitching to prove he was healthy for another contract.
“I mean it doesn’t impact my future. I’m healthy. I know if I’m healthy, the future for me will be fine. The reason why I kind of push things is because I want to pitch this year for this team to help them win and for no other reason,” Britton said when he returned. “So there’s no benefit for me personally, other than the fact that maybe I can have an impact on a World Series championship team. That’s really the only goal for me at this stage of my career. I’ve gotten my contract. I am 34 years old. My reasons are much different now than when I was younger. I want [a] ring, that’s why I pushed this hard to come back and be an option for the team.”
With Clay Holmes down because of rotator cuff inflammation, a doubleheader on Tuesday and rain putting the Yankees final two games of the regular season at Yankee Stadium in doubt, the Bombers just needed an arm. They called up Jacob Barnes, a veteran of parts of seven seasons in the big leagues with the Brewers, Royals, Mets, Angels and Tigers and a 6.10 ERA this season.
“He’s got good stuff. Good arm,” Boone said. “We just wanted that coverage today, with what we’re entering into as far as doubleheaders coming up and some roster situations.”
Frankie Montas was on the field throwing for the first time since he was shut down earlier this month. The right-hander played a very limited catch at about 25 to 40 feet, another indication that he will not be pitching at least in the first round of the playoffs.
And when he does pitch in the playoffs, it very well could be out of the bullpen, Boone confirmed Saturday.
“I don’t know about the Division Series. I don’t know if that’s gonna be in play,” Boone said when asked if there was enough time to ramp him back up. “We feel like there’s time to where he could get to a point where he could be an option for us. Maybe not in the Division Series, but more likely beyond.”
Montas is on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, the same issue that had him miss time in Oakland before the Yankees traded for him. The Bombers targeted Montas specifically for the playoff with his past success against potential playoff foes the Astros and Rays. He struggled once he got here, however. Montas has a 6.35 ERA in eight starts with the Bombers.
The Yankees dealt minor league pitching prospects Luis Medina and Ken Waldichuk along with J.P. Sears, who had already contributed to the big league club, for Montas and reliever Lou Trivino (who coincidentally is the only one of the Yankees’ deadline acquisitions who has not been injured).