Brooks Kriske’s professional career started in June 2016, when the righthanded reliever was drafted in the sixth round out of Southern California.
But in August of his first pro season he went down with Tommy John surgery. That cost the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Kriske all of 2017.
He returned briefly in 2018, then spent 2019 primarily at Double-A Trenton. Following that season the Yankees added Kriske to the 40-man roster. This season he made his big league debut on July 30 against the Orioles at Camden Yards.
Two games into the season, the Yankees needed bullpen depth after James Paxton didn’t get out of the second inning in his first start of the abbreviated schedule. So Nick Nelson and Kriske were summoned from the alternate training site.
In an era that places a premium on relievers pushing radar guns into the mid-to-high 90s, the 26-year-old Kriske fits the bill with a 95 mph fastball. But it is the development of a third pitch to go with a breaking ball that some see as a slider and others a curve.
“He is a power-armed reliever and throwing a split-fingered-type pitch that is developing into a major upside,’’ Yankees vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring said. “He is a three-pitch reliever.’’
Last year in the minors, Kriske recorded a 2.08 ERA in 43 appearances, notching 80 strikeouts in 60.2 innings while walking 28 and allowing 34 hits.
Kriske bypassed Triple-A on his way to New York because the minor league season was cancelled.
Kriske has another tool that endeared him to Yankee scouts while he was at USC.
“He is really competitive, and the staff at USC gave us good reports on his makeup,’’ said Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, himself a former USC player.
— Righthander Nick Nelson, a 2016 third-rounder out of Gulf Coast State (Fla.) JC, joined the Yankees with Kriske. The 24-year-old was added to the 40-man roster last November after being limited to 18 minor league games (17 starts) in 2019 when he pitched for high Class A Tampa, Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.