TAMPA, Fla. -- Jordan Montgomery is showcasing some extra heat this spring, which could make a difference as the left-hander begins his battle for a rotation spot.
Montgomery touched 94 mph on the George M. Steinbrenner Field radar gun in his first Grapefruit League appearance of the year on Monday night, striking out three Pirates with a walk over two scoreless, hitless innings.
“That's the first time I hit 94 in a while, and I was hitting it in sim games consistently,” said Montgomery, who underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2018. “I feel good about my arm strength and mechanics. They're only going to get cleaner, stronger.”
The 27-year-old Montgomery is considered a front-runner to claim the rotation vacancy created by a back injury to left-hander James Paxton, who is not expected to pitch in a big league game until at least May. The Yankees are also awaiting word on the health of right-hander Luis Severino, who is undergoing a three-day battery of tests in New York to determine the cause of his right forearm soreness.
“We're excited about where [Montgomery is] at,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I think we continue to see the consistency of the velocity being a tick up. He was 92, 93 again tonight and you see it playing that way. You see hitters not getting great swings off his fastball, which hasn't been the case in the past. The changeup and the curveball are still there. Another really good day for Monty.”
Montgomery was not expected to contribute to the Yankees in 2019 but returned to make two September appearances, including one start. He said that he only took about two weeks off during the winter, preferring to keep his arm going.
“I'm excited to just have a real Spring Training,” Montgomery said. “I really worked hard this offseason to get my arm strong and have my body ready. I think I'm in a good spot right now.”
Aaron Judge (sore right shoulder) continued to hit and throw on Monday, as the outfielder tossed at a distance of 90 feet and took swings at soft-toss and off a tee indoors. Boone said there is no set date for Judge to appear in a Grapefruit League game.
“We'll kind of take it slow just because of where we are on the calendar, but he's doing well,” Boone said.
My favorite 'Martian'
During an offseason visit to the Dominican Republic, Boone had the opportunity to watch wunderkind prospect Jasson Dominguez take batting practice. Nicknamed “The Martian,” the teenage switch-hitter held his own in a group that also included Miguel Andújar and Gary Sánchez.
“You see this nice kid that's humble and has a little bit of a presence to him,” Boone said. “He hit out on the field with Miggy and Gary that day, and you do lose sight of the fact that he's  years old. He looks the part. Obviously he's got a long way to go and I don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but he's physically so impressive at such a young age.”
Rated as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 54 overall by MLB Pipeline, Dominguez netted a $5.1 million bonus in the 2019-20 signing period. The outfielder, who is working out at the Yankees’ complex in the Dominican Republic but could travel to Florida this summer, has been compared to the likes of Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout.
“It was just neat to meet him,” Boone said. “He was engaging. Interesting. He was humble, and that was good to see. I’m looking forward to him starting his journey.”
The Yankees are on the road Tuesday, visiting the Blue Jays in Dunedin for a 1:05 p.m. ET exhibition. Right-hander Luis Cessa is scheduled to make his first start and second appearance of the spring, pitching behind a lineup that is slated to feature Miguel Andújar, Thairo Estrada, Luke Voit and Tyler Wade. Right-hander Nate Pearson will start for Toronto.