It didn’t come with the fanfare that the signings of Aaron Judge or Carlos Rodon brought, but the Yankees made another significant move official this week, bringing back pitching coach Matt Blake on a new three-year contract.
The well-respected Blake’s contract expired after this past season and he said during the season he wanted to at least see what else was out there, but he’ll instead be back in the Yankee dugout.
“I’ve enjoyed my years here and there’s been a lot of growth, but there are a lot of things left to be done,’’ Blake said after the Yankees introduced Rodon at the Stadium on Thursday.
And he’s confident the experience he’s gained over the previous three seasons will serve him well going forward.
When Blake got hired out of the Cleveland organization, he hadn’t served as an on-field pitching coach at the professional level outside of the Cape Cod League.
Blake acknowledged Thursday his initial hiring was a “different” decision by the Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman said it was “definitely a risk.”
But he believed Blake’s pitching knowledge and people skills would translate well to the role and it’s paid off.
“Whatever’s been thrown his way, he’s so even-keeled and level-headed,’’ Cashman said.
Last season, the Yankees finished with the third-best team ERA in the majors (3.30), behind only the Dodgers and Astros.
Blake has been credited with helping get the most out of some unheralded bullpen arms like Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta and played a role in turning Nestor Cortes into a Cy Young candidate.
“He’s been everything we’d hoped,’’ Aaron Boone said.
The Yankees lost a pair of bullpen options this week when they designated lefty Lucas Luetge and right-hander Junior Fernandez for assignment to open up 40-man roster spots for Judge and Rodon.
The pen remains a focal point this offseason, with more arms likely coming.
Both Luetge and Fernandez, whom the Yankees claimed off waivers last month from the Pirates, were out of minor league options, meaning they couldn’t be sent to the minors without going through waivers.
Cashman and Boone praised Luetge’s work over the previous two seasons.
The back end of the pen now consists of Clay Holmes, Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Loaisiga, Lou Trivino and Wandy Peralta.
The Yankees are confident Mike King (elbow) and Ron Marinaccio (shin) will be healthy at some point during spring training.
And given the depth of the rotation with the addition of Rodon, Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt could be used as relievers, although they will be built up as starters.
The fact that Peralta could be the only left-hander in the pen isn’t a concern, according to Boone, because right-handers like Kahnle and Marinaccio have proven they can be effective against lefties.
“You want to have that balance any way you can find it,’’ Boone said. “Sometimes that means what hand you throw with, other times it’s a guy’s repertoire.”
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