The New York Yankees demoted Tommy Kahnle in a surprising move after their 7-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in the first game of a doubleheader. Kahnle was a major contributor to the Yankees’ bullpen last season after coming over in a trade with the Chicago White Sox that also landed the Yankees David Robertson and Todd Frazier. To replace Kahnle the Yankees activated Adam Warren off of the disabled list.
The 2018 season has not been kind to Kahnle. He has posted a 7.00 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, while issuing 10 walks and striking out 10 in nine innings. He went on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis on April 17 and has appeared in just two games since being activated on May 25.
Last season, his velocity say in the upper 90s with a max of 101.8 mph. This season he has topped at 96 mph but has mostly sat around 94-95 mph. This could be a case of an arm having a hard time adjusting to the workload he received last year. He appeared in 69 games, totaling 62.2 innings in the regular season with another four games and 6.1 innings tallied in the postseason. In 2016 with the White Sox Kahnle appeared in just 29 games and 27.1 innings. In 2015 with the Colorado Rockies, Kahnle appeared in 36 games and 331. Innings. So there was a dramatic increase in usage last season at the Major League level.
One must consider that Kahnle’s arm just wasn’t used to the high-leverage use that he received last year. The talent hasn’t gone away. His arm just needed to be eased into that kind of workload. Major League innings are much different than minor league innings and the stress on the arm is much different. Some pitcher’s arms just don’t respond well to the massive increase in usage and need a little time to rebound.
The Yankees saw Aroldis Chapman look like a different pitcher early on in 2017 after he logged a ton of innings and was used often and for multiple innings in the postseason with the Chicago Cubs in 2016. He lost speed on his fastball and his slider wasn’t as crisp as it had been. These things happen.
Kahnle might just need time and to be eased back in and let his arm catch up. That could be a month or it could be longer. Nobody can predict that. What is certain is that he lost speed on his pitches, suffered a shoulder injury, and was not anywhere close to the pitcher he was last year. It is better to treat Kahnle with kid gloves now and hope he recovers this year than keep throwing him to the wolves.