With Aroldis Chapman return on horizon, Clay Holmes ready to take whatever role is best for Yankees

Clay Holmes
New York Yankees relief pitcher Clay Holmes (35) throws in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Saturday, June 4, 2022, in New York.
AP Photo/John Minchillo

Clay Holmes has become one of the best relievers in all of baseball and earlier this week broke a record held by Mario Rivera since 1998. It’s safe to say that the man who stepped into and thrived in the closer role for the Bomber after Aroldis Chapman was injured in May has been enjoying the success. 

Up until a few nights ago, Holmes was riding a stretch in which he hadn’t given up a run in 31.1 innings. 

“The bullpen, we just have a good group down there,” Holmes told amNewYork before the Yankees hosted the Houston Astros on Thursday. “I think we kind of feed off each other. We’ve had some injuries so some guys have had to step up in bigger roles and I think we’ve all kind of come together and set the challenge. That’s been nice to just put up zeros and help the team.”

Holmes has 12 saves to his name already this season and has an ERA of 0.52 in 32 appearances on the mound, but with Chapman’s return nearing the question about what the roles for the two relievers will look like grows louder. The 29-year-old’s dominance has given him a solid case to remain as the closer going forward. 

Holmes said that there haven’t been any discussions yet, but that he was confident that things would sort themselves out. 

“I think no matter what we need Chappy and (Jonathan Loaisiga) and those guys to come back and be themselves,” Holmes said. “I think whatever role that looks like it’s going to be best for the team and it doesn’t matter if it’s the ninth or the eighth or whenever. I just want to go out there and help the team win.

“The more arms we have the better. The more looks we have the better and obviously, those two guys, especially Chappy, is going to be important for the team if we want to get to where we want to go.”

Clay Holmes
New York Yankees relief pitcher Clay Holmes runs into position, as Tampa Bay Rays’ Francisco Mejia grounds out to end the baseball game Wednesday June 15, 2022, in New York.AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Yankees manager Aaron Boone didn’t seem to want to go too deep into his thinking for when Chapman does return. When asked about Holmes’ role when that does occur, Boone called Holmes the best reliever in the league and said that hopefully, that would continue. 

Earlier this month, Boone had been a bit more forthcoming with where he envisioned Holmes’ role to be. 

“Basically, he’s gonna find himself in a lot of the toughest parts of the lineup. So whether that’s the eighth inning, the ninth inning, we’ll just try and match him up as best we can,” Boone said at the time. 

Considering the history that the Yankees have with the closer role, Holmes is well aware of what that means to be in that spot in New York. 

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“Obviously there’s been some pretty good legacies in the closer role,” Holmes said. “Even with Chappy, he’s been one of the best closers in my time. You obviously know there’s been some names back there and it’s an important role. You realize that, but at the same time you have to go about your business kind of how you normally do and put yourself in the best position to go out there and put up zeros.” 

He added: “There’s definitely something to the ninth inning, but when it comes to being out there on the mound you have to really kind of just focus and lock in on what you can control and the things that you do well.”