Yankees select Luis Severino for Opening Day

Yankees select Luis Severino for Opening Day

Luis Severino will finally get his shot at an Opening Day start this year, the Yankees announced Saturday. According to manager Aaron Boone, he’ll lead a rotation comprised of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. It’ll be the first time since 2014 that someone other than Tanaka has taken the ball for Opening Day.

Severino, 24, is fresh off of his best career year to date. The right-hander pitched to a 14-6 record in 31 starts with the Yankees in 2017 and earned an All-Star nomination and Cy Young award consideration with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9, 10.7 SO/9 and 5.7 fWAR in 193 1/3 innings. “We feel like it’s his time for it,” Boone told reporters Saturday. “With what he was able to do last year, we feel like he’s in a really good place now. We just felt like now is the time for him to take on that role and we think he’s ready for it. I’m looking forward to seeing him grow in his role as one of the aces of this staff.”

Prior to Saturday, Severino pitched in just one Grapefruit League game this spring. He fired 3 1/3 innings against the Phillies, allowing three hits and one unearned run and striking out three batters.

The Yankees are scheduled to kick off the season on March 29 against the Blue Jays. Jordan Montgomery will start their home opener against the Rays on April 2.

Blue Jays sign Danny Espinosa to minors deal

Blue Jays sign Danny Espinosa to minors deal

Free agent middle infielder Danny Espinosa signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, the team announced Saturday. The deal includes an invite to spring training, where Espinosa is scheduled for his first split-squad game against the Orioles this afternoon.

Espinosa, 30, was inked to another minor-league deal with the Yankees in January. The veteran infielder was competing for an infield job until the team picked up second baseman Neil Walker on a one-year, $4 million deal last Monday. Prior to his release, he slashed .160/.276/.320 with one home run through his first 12 games with the Yankees this spring. He didn’t fare much better in the majors last year, either, batting a cumulative .173/.245/.278 with six home runs and a .523 OPS in 295 PA for the Mariners and Rays.

Blue Jays starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is still dealing with a bone spur in his heel and has officially been ruled out for Opening Day, which could clear a path for Espinosa to claim a starting role in Toronto. Of course, he won’t be the only candidate under consideration — Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz are still in the mix as well, though no final decision appears to be made just yet.

Aaron Boone hints Yankees could have two second baseman

Aaron Boone hints Yankees could have two second baseman

TAMPA — With less than two weeks left before Opening Day, Neil Walker finally made his Grapefruit League debut on Friday night, starting at first base with the Yankees hosting the Astros at Steinbrenner Field.

Before Walker’s debut, manager Aaron Boone said he wants to take advantage of the versatility of both Walker and Tyler Wade and that he could use Walker as a backup at first for Greg Bird.

“I’d love him to see him be that guy if we want to give Bird a day,” Boone said of Walker. “Especially with Wade’s ability to move around [the infield], it will be interesting to see the moving parts. It should give us versatility and keep us fresh.”

Boone went so far as to say he doesn’t see the need to have one of them be the everyday second baseman.

“Not necessarily,” Boone said. “There could be regular at-bats for both of those guys.”

Reggie Jackson, who underwent knee surgery on Tuesday, was back at Yankees camp on Friday. He chatted with players as he used a walker to get around the clubhouse.

“It’s getting better,” said Jackson, 71, who added he was told he would need the walker for six weeks, but intends to be off of it in four.
Asked if it felt good to be back in the clubhouse, Jackson said: “I felt kind of awkward coming in, but it’s good to be here.”

Aaron Judge has yet to play a game in left field this spring, despite Boone saying that he could see time there this season. Judge is slated to “get some work in left field” on Saturday at the team’s minor league complex, Boone said on Friday.

“His work has been behind the scenes,” Boone said of Judge.

And Boone added that Judge not appearing in a game in left yet is unrelated to the surgery he underwent on his left shoulder in November.
Meanwhile, Giancarlo Stanton got the start in left again on Friday.

Boone said Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique) took live batting practice on Friday, but added again that missing Opening Day is “possible. We’re certainly not going to rush anything.”

Clint Frazier (concussion) on Friday saw a neurologist, who will remain in camp the rest of the spring.

“[Frazier] continues to get better,” Boone said. “The neurologist feels very optimistic. We will continue to baby-step it and be very conservative. He feels the long-term prognosis is good.”

The Yankees traded OF Jake Cave to the Twins for RHP Luis Gil on Friday. Cave was designated for assignment when the Yankees signed Walker earlier in the week. Cave, 25, split the past two seasons between Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Double-A Trenton.

Gil, 19, pitched for Minnesota’s Dominican Summer League team last year.

Jordan Montgomery looked better than in his previous spring outings, despite giving up a pair of homers in four innings to an Astros lineup made up mostly of minor leaguers.

“I thought the stuff was much crisper,” Aaron Boone said. “A big step forward.”

The first four hitters in the Yankees’ lineup — Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius — went a combined 0-for-12 with six strikeouts, mostly against Houston right-hander Lance McCullers Jr.

After shutting the Yankees down for the final four innings in Game 7 of last year’s ALCS, McCullers blanked them again for 4 ¹/₃ innings on Friday — giving up just one hit in each outing. “They some kind of shut us down,” Boone said.

Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees head to Lakeland, Fla. to face the Tigers at 1:05 p.m. at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Yankees reliever reveals his modest Cooperstown dream

Yankees reliever reveals his modest Cooperstown dream

TAMPA — Maybe in your childhood, you took an annual visit to Six Flags Great Adventure, or Vernon Valley, or Rye Playland.

In Tommy Kahnle’s neck of the woods, you visited the place where every ballplayer wants to be someday.

“I remember growing up, when I was in the summer camps, there was a trip every summer to Cooperstown,” the Yankees reliever said recently at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “So I did that at least five or six times.”

Furthermore, “I’ve been there multiple times playing [tournaments] in that Dreams Park. I’ve had a lot of time in Cooperstown as a kid.”

It would be quite the stretch to suggest the 28-year-old Kahnle, a native of Latham in upstate New York, is on a path to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. For a guy whose future could include an All-Star Game and a World Series, though, getting a memento in the museum ranks as a more tangible possibility.

“Just something,” said Kahnle, whose father-in-law, Chris Peretin, works in maintenance at the Hall, further cementing his ties there. “When I was a kid, you look at it and you’re like, ‘Wow, it’s really old.’ It was cool seeing all that stuff. It may have propelled me to want to be great, I guess.”

If no one would describe Kahnle as a great pitcher, most would agree he carries the potential to be excellent in the wake of his finest major league season. A fifth-round selection by the Yankees in the 2010 amateur draft, Kahnle returned to his original team last summer in the July 18 trade that also brought Todd Frazier and David Robertson to The Bronx and proceeded to put up a 2.70 ERA in 32 appearances totaling 26 ²/₃ innings on top of his 2.50 ERA in 37 games (totaling 36 innings) with the White Sox. He totaled 96 strikeouts against only 17 walks.

In the postseason, he became one of Joe Girardi’s most trusted relievers, posting a 2.38 ERA in seven games totaling 11 ¹/₃ innings as he fanned 10 and walked two. Now he functions as part of Aaron Boone’s ultra-deep, smoke-throwing bullpen.

“I play catch with him. I see what he’s capable of,” Robertson said. “And he’s got an amazing arm. You just don’t see guys like that. He’s got different stuff. I feel like when you can throw 100 miles per hour, whatever he throws, and control it, with that changeup, it’s only an addition of a breaking ball to get to that next tier and make him unstoppable.”

Kahnle’s average fastball velocity of 97.9 mph ranked fourth last year among pitchers who threw a minimum of 60 innings, trailing only the Pirates’ Felipe Rivero (98.5), the Red Sox’s Craig Kimbrel (98.3) and the Astros’ Ken Giles (98.1).

“There’s no telling what Kahnle’s ceiling can be,” Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “His stuff’s good enough.”

In accordance with Robertson’s analysis, Kahnle has been working to use his slider more regularly, Rothschild said.

“I just always wanted to be in the big leagues,” Kahnle said. “Same thing as my goals have always been: Stay in the big leagues and try to win a World Series. [That’s] my number one thing.”

He experienced a similar thrill vicariously this past winter when he watched his beloved Eagles capture their first Super Bowl. While his geographic location should have pushed him toward the Giants, Jets or Bills, Kahnle chose the Eagles because he liked the color green. He brought 16 Eagles jerseys as well as an Eagles helmet from Albany, where he lives now, to show off here in camp.

“You watch that, these guys have been grinding all year. Same thing as what we do,” said Kahnle, who followed his father’s lead and rooted for the Reds in baseball. “Just to see them, the way they celebrated, that excitement. I would love to have that over here.”

The better Kahnle pitches, the more likely he’ll get that and, in turn, be asked by the Hall for a glove, a cap, spikes — anything to complete those trips he made as a youngster.

McCullers sparkles vs Yankees in front of hometown fans

McCullers sparkles vs Yankees in front of hometown fans

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Lance McCullers Jr. had a dominant spring outing in front of the hometown fans.

McCullers, a product of Tampa Jesuit High School, allowed one hit over 4 1/3 innings as the Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 2-0 on Friday night.

”I feel like I’m in a good spot right now,” McCullers said. ”The biggest thing for me is I’m thinking pretty clear out there and I’m able to mix my pitches the way I intend to going into the game. Sometimes it’s not always like that.”

McCullers struck out five and walked one. He held New York hitless until Miguel Andujar opened the fifth with a single. The right-hander was lifted after the next batter, Billy McKinney, flied out on his 72nd pitch.

It was the first time McCullers pitched at Steinbrenner Field, which is a mile from Jesuit High.

”It was pretty cool for me to pitch here,” he said.

McCullers had allowed one run and five hits over 8 1/3 innings in three previous Grapefruit League starts.

”This is one of the first springs for him just to get ready where he entered healthy coming into camp and can work on his fastball command early,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. ”He had specific goals. I think he’s making a transition within the big leagues where he’s not trying to rely on the curveball as much, at least in the spring where he knows he’s in the rotation and knows he’s going to be a big part of that rotation. He can take the time to focus on some things that he needs to get better in. He’s taken that to heart.”

This was the first time McCullers and the World Series champion Astros faced the Yankees since his four-inning save to close out a Game 7 win for Houston win in last year’s AL Championship Series.

”He loves pressure, he loves the big moment and he’s had a number of them,” Hinch said. ”He competes. He knows his strengths. He studies, he’s smart about how he goes about it. It doesn’t hurt to have, probably, the best breaking ball in the American League, if not the big leagues.”

NOTES: Houston relievers Ken Giles and Chris Devenski both went one inning in minor league games.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Jacoby Ellsbury isn't likely to be ready for Yankees opener, Clint Frazier progressing

Jacoby Ellsbury isn't likely to be ready for Yankees opener, Clint Frazier progressing


Yankees manager Aaron Boone provides updates on Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier on Friday, March 16. Pete Caldera/NorthJersey.com

TAMPA, Fla. – Less than two weeks before opening day, it’s doubtful that Jacoby Ellsbury will be ready to break camp with the Yankees.

“That’s possible,’’ manager Aaron Boone said Friday of the chance that Ellsbury (strained right oblique) begins the season on the disabled list. “We’re probably, from a standpoint of time, up against it. We’re certainly not going to want to rush anything.’’

Ellsbury, 34, has yet to play in a Grapefruit League game this year. And it was difficult to imagine how much playing time he’d get, anyway, with Aaron Hicks as the regular center fielder in an outfield headlined by Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner.

But it’s difficult to move Ellsbury, guaranteed another $68.5 million through 2020.

This week, Ellsbury began tracking live pitching and working on back fields. He took outdoor batting practice on Friday.

Additionally, there has yet to be a specific timetable for Clint Frazier’s return to baseball activity.

“He just continues to get better,’’ Boone said of Frazier (concussion symptoms), who banged his head into an outfield wall while making a catch on Feb. 24. Frazier saw a neurologist again this week.

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