BOSTON — Maybe now it’s time to start worrying about the Yankees’ bullpen.
Aaron Boone has said throughout the team’s sluggish start to the season that the bullpen’s early woes have not been cause for concern because of the success most of his relievers have had in recent years and the fact that they are healthy.
That was before Tuesday’s 14-1 thrashing at Fenway Park, when the pen entered a mess largely created by Luis Severino and made it significantly worse — giving up a nine-spot in the sixth.
First, Tommy Kahnle entered to start the bottom of the sixth and after retiring Brock Holt, allowed five of the next six batters to reach base.
He walked three and gave up five runs in just ²/₃ of an inning.
Chasen Shreve wasn’t able to contain the damage, surrendering four more runs.
He started off by drilling Jackie Bradley, Jr. before Christian Vazquez reached when Miguel Andujar booted a grounder to third. With the bases loaded, Shreve walked Holt to force in a run and then allowed a grand slam to left-center to Betts before Benintendi finally grounded out to end the inning.
It was just the latest rough night for a relief corps that was billed as one of the game’s best, especially after the dominance it showed for much of 2017.
But Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Chad Green and Adam Warren have already had poor outings this season — and that was before Kahnle and Shreve set Tuesday’s game on fire. Jonathan Holder has also already been jettisoned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for underperformance.
Kahnle’s velocity has dropped this season. Instead of touching the high 90s, he’s been around 94 mph.
“I’m not worried,” Kahnle said. “I’m just trying to figure out what’s wrong at this point. I think it’s mechanical. I’ve been kind of all over the place lately.”
And he declined to blame the continued wintry weather.
“I don’t think the cold is affecting me at all,” Kahnle said. “I’m just leaving pitches up right now.”
There have been signs the pen was ready to right itself — like Sunday’s loss to the Orioles in the Bronx, when Aroldis Chapman, Robertson, Betances and Shreve each pitched scoreless innings before Warren allowed the game-winner in the 12th.
“It’s early for everybody,” Austin Romine said. “They’re gonna be there for us when we need them, when we come back to this in a few months. … Our pen is still nasty. I don’t care what we’ve given up. We trust every guy that comes into the game.”
As does Kahnle.
“It’s a long season,” the right-hander said. “Right now, we’re scuffling. Everybody’s gonna go through adversity throughout a season. I guess this could be part of it. We’re gonna keep grinding.”