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Two spots in Yanks' rotation still undecided

Boone prefers to carry 13 pitchers, but bullpen makeup also TBD
March 18, 2019

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Injuries have not made Yankees manager Aaron Boone's roster decisions much easier as the last week of Spring Training gets underway. Before the Yankees' Grapefruit League game against the Braves on Monday night, Boone said the fourth and fifth rotation slots remained undecided. He also

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Injuries have not made Yankees manager Aaron Boone's roster decisions much easier as the last week of Spring Training gets underway.

Before the Yankees' Grapefruit League game against the Braves on Monday night, Boone said the fourth and fifth rotation slots remained undecided. He also said those decisions would affect who makes the Opening Day roster in the bullpen. For instance, he said lefty Stephen Tarpley remained in competition for a spot.

"This final week, those will be among the conversations we have in earnest, about just how exactly we want to approach that," Boone said. "How many pitchers do we carry? Do we have any of our potential starters as part of the bullpen as well?"

Boone answered his first question. He said the team should have 13 pitchers on the Opening Day roster.

"There's times in the year where we may be at 12," he said. "I think we even had days where ... we were at 14, when you really go light on the bench. But I think, for the most part, it feels like we'll be at 13 more often than not."

One rotation candidate is right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga -- the Yankees' No. 2 prospect -- who made a strong case by pounding the strike zone with his fastball in three good innings Sunday against the Phillies.

"His curveball was good -- didn't use his changeup a ton, I don't think," Boone said. "I don't know how many pitches he finished up with, but we had him -- after his three innings -- he got a little more work in the bullpen, just to build him up a little bit more."

As Boone indicated, his staff had not committed to Loaisiga's role this season, although the Yankees view him as a high-ceiling starter. He could start and relieve this year.

"I think it'll be a priority -- even if we do use him in some roles at different times this year in the 'pen for us, for the most part we want to keep him built up as a starter," Boone said. "The other thing is, we'll be careful a little bit with his innings. There will be kind of a balancing act there of how we figure out his workload throughout the course of the year. I think he [threw] maybe 80 innings or something last year, so we certainly think he'll be capable of going up over 100 innings this year, but it's also something we got to be smart about."

Outfielders still far from return
While Jacoby Ellsbury has not played a game since 2017, fellow outfielder and top prospect Estevan Florial joined him on the injured list Saturday.

For both, Boone said he could not see a timetable for them to return to game action.

"It feels really speculative of me to even go down that road," Boone said. "It does seem like [Ellsbury] is improving and getting better."

Ellsbury reported to camp almost a month later than his teammates while recovering from a torn left labrum and plantar fasciitis. He has begun throwing and hitting off a tee.

Florial fractured his right wrist while chasing a fly in the eighth inning Saturday against Toronto. Boone said Florial underwent an MRI and had seen a hand specialist before getting a cast on the wrist Monday. That cast should remain for a few weeks before Florial starts rehabilitation, Boone said.

"He had a second little fracture in there, which in the grand scheme of things is inconsequential because it heals along with the other one," Boone said. "It's very similar. So from a prognosis, it's very similar to what we anticipated after getting all the images and after seeing the hand specialist."

Up next
On Tuesday, the Yankees return to Tampa to host the Rays. Right-hander Luis Cessa is scheduled to throw the first pitch at 1:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Tyler Glasnow is slated to start for Tampa Bay.

Zak Kerr is a contributor to MLB.com based in Orlando.