Yankees pitcher Luis Gil gets 2nd big league win, 993 days after beating Orioles in debut

Sun, Apr 21, 2024
MLB News (AP)

Yankees pitcher Luis Gil gets 2nd big league win, 993 days after beating Orioles in debut

NEW YORK (AP) - On the 993rd day after Luis Gil won his major league debut, he got win No. 2.

Now 25 and nearly two years after Tommy John surgery, the right-hander struck out a career-high nine over 5 2/3 innings Sunday in the New York Yankees' 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Throughout that time, you stay positive. You keep your head up, you keep doing all the work and you're looking for it to pay off," Gil said through a translator.

Gil made his big league debut on Aug. 3, 2021, when he filled in for ace Gerrit Cole, who tested positive for COVID-19. Gil was inserted into the rotation this season because the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner is sidelined by right elbow inflammation.

Gil (1-1) allowed an unearned run caused by his own throwing error on a pickoff try and the first of his two balks. Making his 11th big league start, he gave up two hits and three walks - two of them to his final two batters.

"It's a really good peek at how good he is when he is filling up the strike zone," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

Gil's only previous win was with six shutout innings in his debut against Baltimore. He tore his ulnar collateral ligament while pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 18, 2022, and had Tommy John surgery six days later.

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He returned to the mound with Class A Tampa last Sept. 1 and has a 2.75 ERA in four starts for the Yankees this season, with 29 strikeouts and 17 walks in 19 2/3 innings. He had seven walks in his previous start, a 3-1 loss at Toronto.

After being instructed between outings to square his shoulders more, Gil got 14 swings and misses, including 11 with his heater. Six strikeouts came on fastballs, two on changeups and one on a slider. Four of the Ks were called as he threw 64 of 97 pitches for strikes.

New York had optioned him to Triple-A on March 3.

"I didn't realize he was as far along - not injury-wise; knew he was through the injury - it was more me wanting him to go down there and get into a normal routine, not have to fight for innings in big league camp," Boone said.

But then Cole reported elbow pain. The Yankees used Gil in four more spring training starts and recalled him on opening day.

"He just basically said, `Hey, I'm ready' with his performance and how he was throwing the ball, and it was kind of undeniable" Boone explained. "So, really, he just kicked the door in."

Gil's fastball is about the same post-surgery: He averaged 95.9 mph against the Rays and 95.8 mph against the Orioles. Boone says Gil's changeup is much improved.

"He's throwing strikes with all his pitches. As simple as it sounds, that's what it was," catcher Jose Trevino said.

New York also has been working with Gil on his mound demeanor.

Gil was flustered when plate umpire John Libka called a balk that allowed a run to score in the third inning when the pitcher stepped off toward first base rather than toward second. When Gil was called for another balk for failing to come to a stop on a slide step the following inning, he remained focused.

"There's been a couple times early in the season here where I feel like things that have gone on in the game have affected Luis a little bit emotionally, and my message to him is, you can process something, take something in, but it's like, we've got to move on to the next pitch," Boone said. "These are these little lessons that keep coming up that I think are going to be good for his growth. The talent's undeniable."

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