Jonathan Holder
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Jonathan Holder’s inconsistency has finally resulted in his demotion, but this is not the time for the New York Yankees to panic.

Danny Small

The boo birds rained down on Jonathan Holder on Monday night in Yankee Stadium. Despite a 10-2 lead, the once reliable Holder allowed five runs in the eighth inning and forced New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone to dip into his high-leverage relievers.

For Holder, it was another brutal outing amidst a string of forgettable performances. Unfortunately for the 26-year-old, it cost him a trip to London. The Bronx Bombers play the Boston Red Sox in a two-game series in London this weekend.

The Yankees optioned Holder to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game so he could work out some of the kinks.

He’s heading down to the minors after posting a 6.81 ERA in 35.2 innings of work in the majors. On May 20, Holder brought his ERA down to 3.91 and it appeared like he had overcome his struggles from the first month and a half of the season. But in his next 13 games, Holder allowed 17 earned runs in just 12.2 innings.

After serving as one of Boone’s most reliable bullpen arms in 2018, Holder has fallen off a cliff in 2019. He’s given up eight home runs this season. That’s twice as many as he gave up in 66.0 innings last season. Figuring out how to avoid the long ball is going to be the biggest part of his stay in Scranton.

However, this is not the time to panic about Holder. First off, the rest of the bullpen has been stellar. Aroldis Chapman (1.45 ERA) is well on his way to his sixth All-Star Game. The Adam Ottavino (1.56) signing is looking like one of the smartest moves of the offseason. He’s been Boone’s go-to guy in high-leverage situations during the middle innings.

Not to mention, Tommy Kahnle (2.90) and Zack Britton (2.43) have been quietly effective despite being slightly overshadowed by the dominance of Chapman and Ottavino. Additionally, Chad Green (6.75) is starting to regain some of the magic he had in 2017 and 2018.

In fact, Green is a perfect reason to believe that Holder can work through his slump in Triple-A. Make no mistake, pitchers can go through slumps. We tend to focus on the slumps hitters endure because they play every day, but pitchers are prone to rough patches as well.

New York Yankees

Earlier this season, Green went through a 10-game stretch where he allowed 14 earned runs in 7.2 innings of work. Coincidentally, the final straw before Green’s demotion came after he gave up a grand slam in an April game in which the Yankees had a sizeable lead. Holder gave up a grand slam on Monday before his demotion.

The Yankees are hoping that Holder continues to mirror Green. The right-hander pitched 7.1 innings across three outings and only surrendered two runs for the RailRiders. He was able to fine-tune his mechanics and start executing pitches once again.

Since returning to the big leagues, Green has thrived as an opener or as a traditional reliever. In 17.1 innings, he’s only surrendered five earned runs while tossing 28 strikeouts. He’s back to the versatile weapon that gives Boone so much flexibility with his entire pitching staff.

Holder doesn’t need to rush back to save the bullpen. The team’s starting rotation is beginning to show some signs of cracking, but the bullpen appears to be the Hoover Dam. It’s rock solid even without Holder or the oft-injured Dellin Betances.

Furthermore, the Yankees are in an enviable position in the standings. They currently sit six games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays and hold an eight-game lead over the Red Sox. The Yanks can afford to give Holder a wide berth so long as they’re maintaining that lead in the division.

If Holder can follow in Green’s footsteps, the Yanks could add another reliable arm to the bullpen for the stretch run in August and September.

There’s no doubt that Holder has been an issue for the Yankees all season. His inconsistency has put his manager in tough spots multiple times. Chapman has pitched two straight nights and clearly looked gassed after barely wriggling his way out of trouble on Tuesday night. The Yankees have picked up Holder’s slack for the most part.

But despite his woeful year thus far, there’s still reason to believe he can turn his season around contribute in a big way.

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