The New York Yankees have won 12 of their past 17 games, propelling them into third in the AL East, seven games behind first-place Tampa Bay.
If the Yankees want to catch the Rays, they need to improve in key areas. Here are three needed steps.
1. Fix the starting rotation
The Yankees have a 3.76 team ERA, tied for the sixth-best in baseball. That strong ERA is due to the bullpen, not the starters.
Three Yankee starters have made nine or more starts. Gerrit Cole leads those pitchers in ERA (2.53), followed by Domingo German (3.75), Nestor Cortes Jr. (5.30), Jhony Brito (5.58), and Clarke Schmidt (5.58).
Cortes Jr. is the most concerning of the bunch. The 2022 All-Star has a splendid 2.03 ERA in innings one through four this season, but a dreadful 14.68 ERA in innings five through seven. The Yankees need their starters like Cortes Jr. to give them length in order to preserve the bullpen.
Luis Severino just returned from the injured list, but the timetable remains uncertain for fellow Yankee starter Carlos Rodon, according to ESPN. The Yankees lack internal options, so they will have to go external to find help. German Marquez and Lucas Giolito are among the logical trade targets.
2. DFA Josh Donaldson
The Yankees cut bait with Aaron Hicks last weekend. They need to do the same to Donaldson. Donaldson posted a rough .228/.308/.374 slash line with just 15 home runs in 2022. The veteran was also fined and suspended in May 2022 after he made insensitive comments to Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.
Donaldson posted a horrid .125/.176/.313 across 16 at bats this season before being placed on the injured list with a strained hamstring.
The Yankees have been red-hot without the veteran. DJ LeMahieu has settled into the role of Yankee starting third baseman, while Isiah Kiner-Falefa and rookie Oswald Pereza both have the ability to play third base.
There is no reason to bring a struggling veteran back into fold.
3. Stop using Clay Holmes as closer
Holmes is five for seven in save opportunites this season, but the numbers are much worse than that. Holmes has a 3.15 ERA across 20 innings. At Yankee Stadium this season, Holmes has 6.30 ERA and a has given up 17 hits in just 10 innings.
The veteran releiver has blown save saves over the past two season. He is walking 3.72 batters per nine and hitters have a .385 batting average against Holmes when they put the ball in play.
Six relivers who have pitched for the Yankees have a better ERA this season. That list includes key releivers Michael King and Wandy Peralta.
The Yankees need to stick with a closer by commitee approach. Holmes became a star in New York as a setup man, and that is the role he needs to go back to.