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Sheffield fires five scoreless in AFL debut

Yankees prospects come up big in season opener
MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Justus Sheffield, who missed the bulk of two months with an oblique injury, was sent to the Arizona Fall League to make up innings, and he began doing so in dominant fashion on Tuesday night.

Sheffield, the Yankees' No. 4 prospect, yielded just one hit and struck out six over five scoreless frames as he led Scottsdale to a 7-4 win over Mesa on Opening Night.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Justus Sheffield, who missed the bulk of two months with an oblique injury, was sent to the Arizona Fall League to make up innings, and he began doing so in dominant fashion on Tuesday night.

Sheffield, the Yankees' No. 4 prospect, yielded just one hit and struck out six over five scoreless frames as he led Scottsdale to a 7-4 win over Mesa on Opening Night.

Tweet from @wboor: #Yankees Justus Sheffield gets the start for Scottsdale tonight pic.twitter.com/NdqT5xdwaa

"He was unbelievable," Billy McKinney said. "That was a lot of fun to watch, that's for sure. He's a special talent too, so I'm looking forward to seeing how he does the rest of the Fall League. He's a lot of fun to watch."

Sheffield took part in Yankees' instructs, making a pair of five inning starts to tune up for the Fall League, and he certainly looked sharp as he fired 42 of his 60 pitches for strikes.

"I felt good," the No. 79 overall prospect said. "I was definitely excited to get back out there and play some competitive baseball. You know how instructs is, kind of laid back and things like that. But to get out here, and face other prospects, helps you get back in that game mode."

And once he got in that game mode, the lefty was lights out.

Gameday

Sheffield struck out the side in the first inning, retired the first eight batters he saw and faced just one over the minimum as he carved his way through the Mesa lineup.

While Sheffield impressed on the mound, fellow Yankee prospects McKinney (No. 23) and Thairo Estrada (No. 17) showed off some of the offensive talent in New York's farm system.

McKinney broke the game open with a three-run homer out to right in the third inning and Estrada, who finished 2-for-4, drove in a run with a base hit in the fourth.

"I was trying to see a good pitch to drive," McKinney said. "He left it up a little bit and I was glad I put a good swing on it and I was glad it got out."

Video: McKinney discusses his day at the plate in AFL game

McKinney isn't known for his power, but he did tally 29 doubles and hit a career-high 16 homers across 124 games with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.

"I just tried to stick to my swing, stay in my legs and not try to do too much," McKinney said. "If I try to do too much, that kind of hurts [my swing], so I just try to keep it simple."

Matt Thaiss (Angels No. 3) followed up Estrada's hit with an RBI single of his own, pushing Scottsdale's lead to 6-0. However, Mesa battled back with four runs in the sixth, highlighted by RBI hits from Astros No. 1 prospect Kyle Tucker (No. 7 overall) and Sean Murphy (Athletics No. 11).

However, Tomas Nido (Mets No. 9), who hit eight homers in 102 games with Double-A Binghamton this season, put the game away with a solo homer for Scottsdale in the eighth.

William Boor is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.