Donny Rowland remembers the enthusiasm in Ricardo Finol’s voice through the phone imploring the Yankees’ director of international scouting to sign Jonathan Loaisiga after the scout saw him pitch in a 23-and-under tournament in South America in the winter of 2016.
“He had just seen Jonathan throw and it was late at night. He wanted us to sign him,’’ Rowland said on Wednesday of Finol, an international cross checker. “He was blowing me up, saying he had a chance, that he was strong and worked in the strike zone.’’
Loaisiga had been released by the Giants due to arm troubles after not pitching in 2014 and 2015 but what Finol saw trumped the extended inactivity.
“He was saying, ‘Let me sign him’ and I said, ‘I need background,’ ” Rowland said. “I said, ‘Send me some video.’ I watched the video and I said, ‘Go ahead and sign him.’ It was the right spot at the right time.’’
Since Loaisiga was a released player, the Yankees didn’t need to offer him a signing bonus. And when he worked one game for Single-A Charleston before requiring Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, nobody could predict the native of Nicaragua would make his major league debut this Friday night against the Rays at Yankee Stadium.
“He doesn’t have a lot of experience but he has got the stuff and throws strikes,’’ Rowland said of the 23-year-old Loaisiga, who was added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster last offseason following a sensational Instructional League showing after he had worked in 11 games in the low minors in 2017.
Watching Loaisiga throw in an Instructional League game, Tim Naehring noticed a flock of scouts from other organizations looking at the pitcher. Naehring, the Yankees’ vice president of baseball operations, phoned general manager Brian Cashman and strongly suggested the pitcher be put on the 40-man roster to keep the Yankees from losing Loaisiga in the Rule 5 draft.
“He has a big voice,’’ Cashman said of Naehring. “He said, ‘We are going to lose him if we don’t put him on [the roster].’ ”
Loaisiga appeared in a combined 10 games for Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this season. He went 6-1 with a 3.00 ERA. In 45 innings, the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder has struck out 58 and walked four.