Brooks Kriske was initially drafted by the New York Yankees in the sixth round of the 2016 MLB Draft. After a four-year collegiate career at USC, Kriske was assigned to the Staten Island Yankees for the 2016 season.
Making 13 appearances out of the bullpen, Kriske (0-2, 2.25) injured his pitching arm in August 2016. The diagnosis was that he needed Tommy John surgery.
“I got hurt in August and got the MRI towards the end of August, so that was when I heard I was going to need to have surgery. It’s a 12-18 month process, so I was mentally prepared for that,” said Kriske after hearing that he needed surgery. “I knew it was going to be a full year thing. All of 2017 was going to be missed.”
After missing the 2017 season, Kriske began throwing again during the instructional league in late 2017. Even with that much lost time, Kriske prepared for the 2018 season as he would normally:
“It was a normal off-season. I left Tampa at the end of instructs, and normal weight training, and kept up with all my shoulder program. I ended up going back to Tampa early in January, so that’s when I started throwing bullpens again. I had all the coaches and all the help I needed in January.”
Staten Island Pitching Coach Travis Phelps was one of the coaches who worked closely with Kriske during extended spring training. When asked what he saw from Kriske during his extended spring outings, Phelps said:
“We have been trying to find his command and some consistency with his slider. Just trying to create the right shape, and keep it in the zone, and be able to expand the zone whenever he is ahead of the count. Those were the two main things we worked on during extended.”
Phelps is also very high on Kriske’s future, especially after what he saw in the spring:
“He’s got a great arm. He’s got some life on his fastball. When his slider is right, it is pretty tough to hit. It’s really on him, and getting him back to the old Kriske, and seeing what he can do.”
Current Staten Island Yankees Manager also spoke positively of Kriske, and the time in extended spring training:
“He was pretty good in extended. While he was down there, he was working on his fastball command. They were very careful with him as far as him coming back, so his outings were limited, but he was pretty much dominant down there.”
Kriske was excited to be back on the mound, but knew that he needed to take his time:
“I was excited. I was on track for everything, that was good. The first part of my rehab was smooth. At first, it felt different, after that trauma in your elbow. Shortly after throwing again, it started to feel normal, and it was just the baby steps and really kind of putting on the breaks, not letting it rip right away.”
In his return to game action, Kriske was once again assigned to Short-Season A Staten Island. Typically, a player does not want to repeat a Short-Season minor league level, especially after performing well two years earlier. This was not the case for Kriske:
“I trust wherever they send me. I think with the amount of talent we have here; it’s not necessarily a bad thing to come back here. I can get innings in and get work done and am familiar with all the coaches here. I think you can develop anywhere. I was completely fine coming back, and we had some unfinished business. I wanted to come back here and win here.”
During his rehab, Kriske was able to add a third pitch to his arsenal. In addition to the fastball-slider combo that made him successful in 2016, Kriske is now throwing a changeup:
“I was able to develop a little bit of a changeup during my rehab, so hopefully this is something that I can bring into these games as well.”
Through 7/7/17, Kriske has made five appearances out of the bullpen this season. In these five games, Kriske is (0-1, 1.13), giving up only one earned run, with 11 strikeouts, and 1.25 WHIP in eight innings. These numbers are favorable to his successful 2016 season.
Currently, the narrative on Brooks Kriske is how will he come back from his injury. After his performance thus far this season, it is reasonable to say Brooks Kriske is back, and better than he was before his injury.