Jonathan Loaisiga has been vaccinated for COVID-19, so the Yankees reliever wasn’t subject to frequent tests for the coronavirus. But he got tested because he traveled to Nicaragua during the All-Star break to visit his family and a negative test is mandatory for visitors.
The right-hander was stunned when he received the bad news: Not only could he not travel, but also he would miss a few weeks of action, after registering a positive test.
“You feel bad, because it was a clear opportunity to see your family for a couple of days. Unfortunately, God had other plans,” he said on Wednesday before the Yankees hosted the Phillies at the Stadium. “I had just pitched [the day before] and pitched pretty well, and felt pretty good.”
Loaisiga, placed on the COVID-19 injured list on July 10, didn’t have any symptoms. He spent the mandatory 10 days away in Austin, Texas, playing video games and watching television shows. At the tail end of it, he was able to get in some exercise and lightly toss with fellow reliever Wandy Peralta, who tested positive for the virus at the same time.
“You never want to step away from the game, but at the same time you got to look at the positives of all this,” Loaisiga said. “We’ve been doing a really good job out of the bullpen and working a lot of innings, so you got to take these two weeks I was out as a way to rest and come back stronger and hopefully pick up where I left off and start helping the team the same way I was doing.”
Loaisiga rejoined the Yankees on Tuesday and threw a bullpen session on Wednesday. He said he felt good after throwing, but it remains uncertain when he will be activated. Manager Aaron Boone wants to see how he feels on Thursday before determining if Loaisiga will need to throw another bullpen session or if he’s ready to be used against the Red Sox on Thursday or Friday.
At the time of the positive test, Loaisiga was in the midst of a breakout season. In 47 innings, he has struck out 46, walked just 10 and notched a 2.11 ERA.
Once Loaisiga is activated, the Yankees’ bullpen will have its four big weapons intact, now that Aroldis Chapman seems to have snapped out of his slump and regained his role as closer, Zack Britton is healthy and Chad Green has continued to pitch well. There is an argument to be made that Loaisiga has been the Yankees’ most consistent reliever this season.
“We’ll be really excited to get ‘Lo’ back. He’s been one of the best relievers in the game this year,” Boone said. “We’ve seen his game and his confidence go to another level this year. ‘Lo’s been so valuable for us, so we certainly look forward to getting him back in that mix.”