The long recovery for Ben Heller from reconstructive elbow surgery came to an end at long last, as the team activated the 28-year-old to the active roster for Tuesday night’s contest in Detroit. To clear a 40-man roster spot, the team designated pitcher Adonis Rosa for assignment.
Heller came to the Yankees in 2016 as part of the trade that sent Andrew Miller to Cleveland and brought Heller along with Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and J.P. Feyereisen to New York. He pitched in mostly a mop-up role as an up-and-down player in 2016 and 2017, pitching to a 3.00 ERA (5.65 FIP) in 18 innings across those two seasons. It’s worth noting that Frazier and Heller are the only ones left, with Feyereisen (Brenny Escanio/international money trade) and Sheffield (James Paxton trade) dealt elsewhere.
The Yankees optioned Heller along with Tyler Austin, Giovanny Gallegos and Billy McKinney (what a group of names!) March 21 as part of final roster cuts prior to the 2018 regular season. On April 2, however, the team announced it “voided the minor league option” that sent Heller to Triple-A and placed the righty on the MLB 10-day injured list, which implied his injury took place in service of the Yankees and not in the minors. Five days later, the team announced Heller underwent Tommy John surgery performed by team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad.
Heller had two separate rehab assignment as he had an unrelated injury set him back. He didn’t allow a run in 6⅔ innings between High-A Tampa and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being shutdown. In his second rehab stint, starting Aug. 17 and pitching exclusively in Triple-A, he allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings of work.
Since Heller’s option was voided because of the injury, he’ll complete the season with two minor-league options remaining. Heller spent all that time on the MLB injured list, which means he was making his MLB salary ($555,000) and accruing MLB service time.
Adonis Rosa was a one-and-done with the Yankees in terms of appearances, coming up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to serve as the long-man. The 24-year-old pitched Aug. 13 in an 8-to-3 win over Baltimore, throwing two innings of one-run ball to close out that victory.
Rosa didn’t come with prospect pedigree, as he put up slightly bloated numbers across the two highest levels of the minors in 2019. He pitched both in relief and out of the rotation for both Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, though he fared better in relief (3.83 ERA) than starting (4.45 ERA). Overall, Rosa put up a 4.18 ERA in 103⅓ minor-league innings.
The Yankees will figure out if Rosa will be claimed on waivers by Thursday. Because he’s on a major-league contract currently, he cannot be traded until the offseason. So, the only way he doesn’t end up back in the Yankees organization is if a team claims him and plans to carry him on their 40-man roster.