BALTIMORE — Michael King’s goal last season was to pitch 100 innings in whatever role the Yankees cast him in.
The right-hander ultimately fell short due in part to a finger injury that cost him two months, but he still proved a valuable member of the bullpen.
He looked even more like a gun to manager Aaron Boone in the first week of this season.
After his first two appearances in multi-inning efforts, King was called up in the ultimate pressure Thursday night to clean up the ninth-inning mess created by Aroldis Chapman. With loaded bases and no outs in a game, the Yankees led the Blue Jays 3-0, and King barely worked a sweat and quickly made his first career save in the major leagues.
“He’s going out there with a confidence and a fearlessness that he’s hitting on now,” Boone said Friday before the Yankees opened a series against the Orioles at Camden Yards. “It comes back to throwing strikes for all the guys, but when he’s attacking and throwing strikes, he’s got a lot of weapons to do what he’s done [Thursday] Night.”
To relief for Chapman, who entered bases by throwing only four of his 16 pitches for strikes, King came to relief and needed only five pitches, all strikes, to pull the team back. He knocked out George Springer and got Bo Bichette to bat in a game-ending doubles game.
It was King’s first save since last September with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre while he was in rehab. He had another save in his minor league career (2016) and four when he fielded at Boston College — not that he remembered any of them Thursday night, he said.
“I really wasn’t thinking about it at the moment, but after that [Anthony] Rizzo gave me the ball, I thought that was pretty cool,” King said. “This one will definitely stand out.”
While King won’t necessarily have many more saves this season, Thursday’s performance was the latest reminder he can still play a vital role for the Yankees. His ability to play multiple innings is always valuable, but especially early on this season as the rotation is still building their workload after a truncated spring practice session.
However, Boone can also turn to King in high-leverage situations, as he did Thursday night.
“We saw him show up last year,” Boone said. “He’s always been a confident guy but I think the progress we made at this level last year and that he’s taken on for us in a lot of important roles has been huge for his development. He worked hard over the winter to continue working on his craft. He’s a guy who’s interested in all the tools that will help him get better and he uses them.”
The 26-year-old King posted a 3.55 ERA over 63 ¹/₃ innings last season while hitting 62 outs and 24 walks. He started six games that required the Yankees to fill a hole in the rotation, but otherwise offered depth in the bullpen while also turning into one of Boone’s trusted high-leverage helpers.
This spring, King said preparing for such a versatile role came with a learning curve as he made his debut in the majors in 2020. But he’s learned to attack every inning like it’s the only inning he’ll throw on any given night, with more of a bullpen mentality. Through Friday’s 5 ²/₃ innings, he had given up just one earned run on six hits and one walk while striking out seven.
King has also benefited from the emergence of his breaking ball, a slider/curveball hybrid that Corey Kluber played a key role in developing when the two were teammates last year.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/15/michael-kings-save-shows-off-his-new-yankees-fearlessness/ Michael King’s parade shows his newfound Yankees fearlessness