Aaron Boone call played role in Tommy Kahnle rejoining Yankees

TAMPA — In the days leading up to his Dec. 6 free-agency decision, Tommy Kahnle weighed several contract offers, including a pact from the Red Sox.

Just in case the Yankees’ offer could use an extra bit of heft, Aaron Boone made his own pitch to the pitcher.

The Yankees manager called Kahnle to check up on him, see how he was doing and “to tell me he wanted me back.”

“He said he went to [GM Brian Cashman] right after the season and had one goal: He wanted to bring me back,” Kahnle said Tuesday at Steinbrenner Field.

Kahnle is a Yankee for a third time after signing a two-year, $11.5 million deal with the organization that both drafted him and traded for him.

There were plenty of reasons, besides the money, for a reunion: the comfort level with a team of players and coaches he knows well; the location, for a Latham native; the belief that Kahnle can help the Yankees to a World Series, the “elusive goal that I still have not been able to accomplish,” he said.

Plus the familiarity with the guy who managed him from 2018-20.


Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle throws batting practice.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Po

“Having Boonie call me and talk to me was a big help,” Kahnle said. “He basically reiterated to me that they really wanted me back.”

Wanted him back again.

Kahnle was a Yankees fifth-round pick in 2010 and spent four minor league seasons within the organization before Colorado grabbed him in the 2013 Rule 5 draft.

Kahnle established himself as a major leaguer first for the Rockies and then White Sox, who sent Kahnle, Todd Frazier and David Robertson to the Yankees at the 2017 trade deadline.

Kahnle was strong in three-and-a-half seasons in The Bronx that ended on a sour note, requiring Tommy John surgery in 2020.

The Dodgers picked him up in free agency and received 16 outings from Kahnle last season, when right forearm inflammation set him back.

The 33-year-old is feeling healthy and ready to help a bullpen with a changeup that hitters never have been able to figure out.

He said he might not throw as hard as he once did — his heater averaged 97.6 mph in 2020 — but on the other side of Tommy John surgery, he believes his off-speed pitches can compensate.


Yankees
Aaron Boone
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“Stuff-wise, it’s still there. My changeup’s going to be my go-to always,” said Kahnle, whose changeup held opposing hitters to a .094 average (3-for-32) last season.

“I think that’s a big factor in why teams value me. … I’m going to keep using it until I’m done pitching.”

In a bullpen with plenty of fastballs and sliders, Kahnle stands out.

“Tommy’s a guy that I think was a beloved guy in our room,’’ Boone said when the Yankees brought him back.

“He’s got a big personality, but was also an outstanding pitcher for us.”

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