Pitching Notes: Abreu, Cortés/Tarpley, Heller, Whitlock

Fresh off a doubleheader sweep, the Yankees welcome the Colorado Rockies to the Bronx for a three-game set. The interleague matchups with the National League West are always fun since the Yankees don’t see those teams very often in the regular season.

Here are a few pitching notes:

No. 3 Prospect Abreu Adds Slider

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After struggling through a few starts for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, top prospect righty Albert Abreu has strung together two consecutive quality starts. The secret is, apparently, a new pitch. Kyle Franko of the Trentonian reports the Yankees organization has taught Abreu a slider, which is apparently one of the pieces that made Deivi García leap up the prospect rankings.

“That’s a new pitch I’ve started using now. Some of the hitters don’t know I have a slider now. My slider is similar to my fastball in that I throw it pretty hard. My slider is helping me a lot the last two starts.”

Albert Abreu, via interpreter (per Kyle Franko, Trentonian)

Abreu has allowed just two runs and 10 hits across his last 13 innings while picking up 13 strikeouts to just four walks.

Yankees Option Cortés, Keep Tarpley

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The Yankees had brought Stephen Tarpley up as the 26th man for Thursday’s doubleheader, and it appears the team will keep him up for the series opener against Colorado.

To reset the roster to 25 players, the Yankees optioned Nestor Cortés Jr. back to Triple-A. Cortés threw 3⅓ innings of one-run ball in Game 2 of the doubleheader as the follower behind Chad Green. He has a 4.34 ERA (4.31 FIP) at the big-league level.

Tarpley, who last pitched July 13 for the RailRiders, owns a bloated 9.64 ERA (8.14 FIP) in 9⅓ innings so far with the Yankees.

Cortés cannot be recalled until July 28 unless there is an injury.

Heller Shut Down With Flexor Strain

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Ben Heller was pulled off his rehab assignment earlier this week with pain in his elbow/forearm area. He has been diagnosed with a flexor strain in the elbow and has been shut down for a week.

All things considered, it’s not the worst thing that could happen after Tommy John surgery. Heller had pitched 6⅔ innings split between High-A Tampa and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre without allowing a run.

No. 16 Prospect Whitlock Likely Out For Season

Image via MiLB.com

Tough news for a pitching prospect who had been having a solid season for Double-A Trenton. Righty Garrett Whitlock is likely out for the season with a significant elbow injury, per Kyle Franko of the Trentonian.

“As far as him being back this year, I doubt it. I don’t think that’s going to happen. In terms of what route he’s taking, I don’t think he’s made a decision whether it’s going to be a rehab thing or a potential surgery.”

Patrick Osborn, Trenton Thunder manager (per Franko)

The two options mentioned by Osborn, rehab or surgery, make it sound like Whitlock has an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament of his elbow. That’s just my speculation. It could mean Tommy John surgery or a rehab program similar to the one used by Masahiro Tanaka. I imagine we’ll hear more about the plan once Whitlock has made his decision.

In 14 starts for the Thunder, Whitlock posted a strong 3.07 ERA and a 55.9% ground ball rate. He was an 18th round pick in 2017 from the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He will not be Rule-5-eligible until December 2020.

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