Expectations for the New York Yankees are always sky-high as each new MLB season dawns. And with the return of stars like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rizzo and so many others from the 2022 team that won 99 regular-season games, those expectations are justified.
In fact, the Yankees have won more than 90 games in five of the last six seasons, the only exception being the 60-game COVID-shortened 2020 season. Yet during that span, New York has never been able to advance to the World Series. One reason why there’s hope around the organization that 2023 will be different is found in the Yankees’ bullpen: Clay Holmes, the team’s starting closer.
After being traded to New York from Pittsburgh in 2021, Holmes quickly made himself at home. He posted a 1.61 ERA in 25 appearances with the Yankees in 2021, then a 2.54 ERA in 62 games a season ago, recording 20 saves in the place of injured closer Aroldis Chapman.
Holmes’ performance earned him AL Reliever of the Month last May, his first trip to the All-Star Game last July, and the franchise record for most consecutive scoreless outings.
Holmes is now New York’s starting closer from the get-go this season.
In his first appearance of 2023 on Saturday against the San Francisco Giants, Holmes only managed to go 2/3 of an inning, surrendering three hits and two earned runs as the Yankees lost, 7-5. His second outing against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday was an improvement, closing out the ninth inning with two strikeouts while allowing one hit as New York won, 8-1.
Holmes then struck out the side in the ninth on Wednesday for his first save of the season as the Yankees beat the Phillies again, 4-2.
Clay Holmes SHUTS THE DOOR 😤
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) April 5, 2023
Being the closer for the Yankees is packed with immense pressure, and Holmes can expect to face soaring praise as well as biting criticism. For better or worse, Holmes, now 30 years old, has reached a position countless others strive for.
But it wasn’t without Holmes cutting his teeth for seven years in the minor leagues, then for three-and-a-half more in Pittsburgh, without ever advancing to the postseason.
Last week, Holmes joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast and discussed the patience he’s learned in his career, and how that patience stems ultimately from his faith in Jesus.
In 2019 with the Pirates, Holmes began questioning his baseball journey. Had he unknowingly placed his identity in baseball rather than in God, where it should have been the whole time? As a pastor’s kid from Slocomb, Alabama, was he really living out the faith in God that he claimed to possess?
“I just want to experience God working His power in my life,” Holmes said of that time. “There’s gotta be more to life than just hanging my hat on the identity of this baseball thing. … When I think back on that time, it’s almost like Romans 12:1-2 comes to mind, just being a living sacrifice.
“You present the Gospel. You know these things. But in response to that, it’s like your life becomes this living sacrifice.”
A week later, on July 26, 2021, Holmes was traded to New York.
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23
— Clay Holmes (@ClayHolmes21) February 16, 2014
Despite playing in the pinstripes and experiencing the highs and lows that come with life as a Yankee, Holmes has felt incredibly at peace, resting in Psalm 23.
“You get to the point where you see and He becomes your treasure,” Holmes said on the podcast. “It’s no longer you seeking to kind of be your best because you feel like God’s blessed you with something and it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s on me to do this now.’
“You just realize that freedom of when you become that living sacrifice, there’s a freedom that comes with it that just allows you to display the talents and the uniqueness that God’s given you and the identity you have in Him in a way that’s much greater than you can do on your own.”
Holmes and the Yankees (4-2) are off on Thursday due to inclement weather postponing their game against Baltimore, but the teams will start their series Friday at 3:05 p.m. ET.
– SS PODCAST: Yankees All-Star Clay Holmes on patience, being a preacher’s kid
– WATCH: ‘I ONCE WAS’ – Former MLB All-Star Matt Holliday
– Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright sings national anthem at final opening day
– D-backs SS Nick Ahmed after painful 2022 season: ‘I need Jesus to help me’
– Aaron Judge breaks AL single-season home run record: ‘I’ve got to thank God’