Envision the ideal scenario to unroll a prospect into the major leagues: Low-pressure, low-profile, on a high note.
Luis Gil came aboard via the completely opposite route. He thrived anyway.
As Gerrit Cole’s COVID replacement, coming off a poor outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and asked to erase the stench of a bad Yankees loss Monday, Gil shrugged off such potential burdens to make his big league debut a rousing success, throwing six shutout innings in a 13-1 romp over the Orioles.
“We’re expecting Gerrit Cole to be going tonight and that’s tough news to get when your ace goes down and you’re wondering how you’re going to … cover those innings,” Aaron Boone said. “To have Luis come up for the first time and really shine and embrace the moment, it was much-needed.”
“I feel so proud,” Gil, a native of the Dominican Republic, said through an translator, “because of all the work that I’ve done and because of my family. They’ve always been there for me and they’ve offered a lot of support for so many years.”
The Yankees (57-49) picked up a game apiece on the Rays (64-44) and Red Sox (63-45), both of whom lost, and they have now won 16 of their last 24 games. This marked only the third of those 16 victories that didn’t require either a save or a walk-off. The laughers have been sparse.
And no one in pinstripes chuckled earlier Tuesday when news hit that Jordan Montgomery had joined his fellow starter Cole with a positive coronavirus test, creating two more voids in the team’s starting rotation so soon after Domingo German went on the injured list with a right shoulder problem. In the wake of the Yankees’ ugly, 7-1 loss to the Orioles on Monday night, a series loss to the American League East’s cellar-dwellers suddenly seemed feasible.
Into this mess stepped Gil, ranked by MLB.com as the Yankees’ sixth-best minor leaguer yet owning a 5.64 ERA in eight starts for Scranton, his 38 strikeouts in 30 ¹/₃ innings neutralized somewhat by his 23 walks. Most recently, at Syracuse on July 27, the 23-year-old lasted only 1 ¹/₃ innings, getting knocked around for six runs, two hits (both home runs) and four walks.
And with the heat on Tuesday, Gil scattered four hits, walked one and struck out six, becoming the first Yankee since Sam Militello, in 1992, to throw six or more shutout innings in his major league debut (thanks to the YES Network’s James Smyth for the 411). To turn the night into a full-blown coming-out party, the Yankees relieved Gil with two more pitchers making their big league debuts, Long Islander Stephen Ridings (one inning, three strikeouts) and Brody Koerner (two innings).
“Through all this adversity that comes our way … we got some meaningful contributions from the guys that came up today,” Boone said.
Gil said that, after his lousy outing for Scranton, “I watched a lot of video of that and tried to pick apart what I was doing, what mechanically wasn’t working for me at the time. A good friend of mine offered some advice on what to fix … I put it in action today.” Not bad, considering he learned of his assignment only late Monday night while in Scranton.
He threw strikes, 62 of his 88 pitches, and the Orioles made solid contact on only a few. With Yankees like Giancarlo Stanton (a homer, single and four RBIs), Aaron Judge (a homer and single) and Gleyber Torres (a single, double and sacrifice fly) among those enjoying very good contact against the Baltimore pitching, the Yankees could enjoy this one. On Wednesday, with the hot Jameson Taillon going for them, they’ll try for the series win.
“I’m hoping this is just the beginning and we can keep working together the way we did tonight,” Gil said … minutes before the Yankees returned him to Scranton. Nevertheless, he’ll surely get another shot, this time entering on much more of a high note.