The latest rehab of Tommy Kahnle’s career has doubled as a science experiment, with the fields of Single-A Tampa, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and now Double-A Somerset serving as his laboratories.
Eventually, when Kahnle makes his return to the Yankees bullpen, he wants a new sinker to become a top pitch — just like his changeup.
So far, Kahnle has “actually surprised myself” with how well he has integrated it into his pitching rotation.
Kahnle’s rehab assignment following right biceps tendinitis was transferred to Double-A Somerset on Tuesday, along with Josh Donaldson (right hamstring strain), and the pair reunited with outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (left hamstring), who began his rehab assignment with the Patriots.
The right-hander threw the seventh inning and allowed one run, one hit (a double) and two walks, while throwing just seven of his 17 pitches for strikes.
Kahnle hoped to meet the Yankees for their series in Los Angeles afterward, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters in Seattle that “that’s the plan.”
“Again, let’s get through today and see where we’re at,” Boone said.
After nearly a three-year stretch that included Tommy John surgery, a missed 2021 season, a four-month absence with a bone bruise in 2022 and then the biceps tendinitis in March, Kahnle still thinks he can replicate the relief performances from before the string of absences — another arm added into a Yankees bullpen that has been one of MLB’s best this season.
“It’s always rewarding once you finish rehabbing, get back with the team and help instead of being on a training table for a few months,” Kahnle said Tuesday following a pregame throwing session.
In 2022, when Kahnle appeared in 16 games for the Dodgers, his pitch mix featured a changeup 77 percent of the time and a fastball the other 23 percent, according to Baseball Savant.
With the sinker, he wanted to add a “different kinda look” to his fastball to account for any velocity dip.
The thrill when Kahnle signed a two-year contract with the Yankees, the organization that drafted him in 2010 and traded for him in 2017, quickly wore off when the biceps tendinitis emerged before he even threw in a Grapefruit League game.
He was transferred to the 60-day injured list, which allowed for a gradual recovery and the afforded time to not rush anything — risking another injury, given his history.
Four weeks following his tendinitis in March, Kahnle was able to throw pain-free.
He has since tossed four scoreless innings throughout his rehab assignment entering Tuesday’s appearance, allowing just one hit across his four outings with Tampa and SWB.
He has a new pitch to showcase once that return happens, too.
“Last year, in a limited sample size, I felt like I was back,” Kahnle said. “The velo wasn’t what everybody used to see in the past, but, I mean, going out there and being able to pitch and just be able to shut the door was very exhilarating.
“And I was happy to see that.”
— Additional reporting by Greg Joyce