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Yanks' versatile bullpen 'ready for anything'

Boone impressed with Stanton's 'focus'; Estrada, Frazier among taxi squad keeping loose in Tampa
@BryanHoch
October 5, 2019

NEW YORK -- The first nine innings of this American League Division Series offered an indication of how aggressively the Yankees plan to use their bullpen, the strength of which they believe offers an advantage in their efforts to extend the Twins’ history of postseason frustration.

NEW YORK -- The first nine innings of this American League Division Series offered an indication of how aggressively the Yankees plan to use their bullpen, the strength of which they believe offers an advantage in their efforts to extend the Twins’ history of postseason frustration.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 4 NYY 10, MIN 4 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 5 NYY 8, MIN 2 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 7 NYY 5, MIN 1 Watch

One year after drawing criticism for sticking with starting pitchers too long in the Yanks’ four-game ALDS loss to the Red Sox, manager Aaron Boone tapped his right arm to summon Adam Ottavino with two outs in the fifth inning on Friday, relieving James Paxton. New York’s bullpen combined for 4 1/3 innings of one-run relief in a 10-4 Game 1 victory.

“The rule of thumb is to just be ready for anything,” Ottavino said. “You could be in there for a long time or a short time. I try not to get too caught up in any of that. You just try to go out and get the first guy out, then worry about the next guy. If you get taken out, you get taken out. You really try not to look into it too far.”

Dress for October: Shop Yankees postseason gear

Ottavino’s hook was quicker than anticipated in Game 1, as he faced only one batter -- Nelson Cruz, who worked a walk -- before Boone emerged again to call upon Tommy Kahnle, who induced Eddie Rosario to line out to center field for the final out of the fifth inning.

Kahnle, Chad Green and Zack Britton all recorded high-leverage outs before J.A. Happ worked a scoreless eighth inning, staked to a six-run lead.

“Our bullpen is probably the most experienced I've been around,” Britton said. “There’s a lot of different looks, too -- left-handed, right-handed, sliders, fastballs. I don't feel like the other team is going to get too comfortable off our ‘pen.”

Britton said that Boone, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bullpen coach Mike Harkey have communicated with the relievers well about how they can plan to be used during the postseason. The Yankees are the only team in the Majors that did not call upon an individual reliever on three consecutive days in 2019.

“We’ll use them more than they’re used to and then weigh where we’re at the next day,” Boone said. “We’ll try to get honest feedback of where they are, what was their pitch counts, workload, stress -- all those kind of things. I’m sure at some point there will be a day where we’ve got to stay away, or maybe we’ll only have them for a batter or two, but we’ll see as it unfolds.”

Applause-worthy

One of the most poignant moments prior to Friday’s Game 1 came as reliever Dellin Betances was announced with his Yankees teammates, hobbling to the first-base line using crutches. Betances sustained a partial tear of his left Achilles tendon in September, ending his season.

“That fired me up. I loved it,” Ottavino said. “He's been with us the whole year. He hasn't felt sorry for himself. He's always been supportive the whole year of us, and we really wanted to have him the whole year. We were excited when he came back that one day, and I was extremely devastated after he got hurt. I've been thinking about pitching with him for a long time.”

A four-time All-Star, the 31-year-old Betances was limited to only one appearance this season due to injuries. Betances is eligible for free agency after the season.

“He's been through a lot,” Britton said. “For him to have a positive mindset and be a good teammate says everything you need to know about the guy. That's a tough thing to do when you've had a lot of bad luck thrown your way.”

Stanton Island

Boone offered positive reviews of Giancarlo Stanton’s performance in Game 1, as the slugger worked three walks in four plate appearances. Stanton is aiming to hone his timing after batting 7-for-21 (.333) with two homers and six RBIs after being activated from the injured list on Sept. 18.

“I just feel like his focus is really good,” Boone said. “Obviously for missing a lot of the season and not having a lot of games at the end of the season, he has worked really hard and got a lot of work seeing live pitches. I just think his frame of mind is really good. He carried it into last night.”

Taxi squad

Infielder Thairo Estrada, outfielder Clint Frazier, right-hander David Hale and right-hander Ben Heller were sent to the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Fla., and they continue to work out in case they are needed as injury replacements during the ALDS.

Boone said that first baseman Mike Ford, right-hander Cory Gearrin, left-hander Jordan Montgomery and left-hander Stephen Tarpley will travel from New York to join that group after Game 2.

This date in Yankees history

Oct. 5, 1921: The Yankees played their first World Series game, defeating the Giants, 3-0, at the Polo Grounds. Carl Mays fired a complete game for the Yanks, permitting five hits without a walk.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.