Lombard's 1st HR as pro is 'nothing short of amazing'

Rodón confident in Yankees' rotation; Stroman debuts in split-squad game

February 26th, 2024

TAMPA, Fla. -- It won’t appear on the backs of his future baseball cards, but will never forget what he considers to be his first professional home run -- an opposite-field blast in the Yankees’ pinstripes, clearing the right-field wall in the same game that Juan Soto also homered in his New York debut.

“It was nothing short of amazing,” said Lombard, the Yankees’ first-round pick in last year’s MLB Draft. “It was really special to be out there, especially in the beginning with the intros and the [helicopter] flyover and everything. You’re on the field with those guys, superstars who have proved themselves in this game. It’s really cool.”

The 18-year-old Lombard entered Sunday's 12-6 Grapefruit League victory over the Blue Jays in the fifth inning, working a walk in the sixth before connecting for a Statcast-projected 356-foot homer facing Jimmy Robbins in the eighth.

Lombard, a shortstop rated as the Yankees’ No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was the 26th overall selection in last year’s Draft and received a $3.3 million signing bonus.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he has enjoyed watching Lombard perform at the team’s Player Development complex in recent weeks.

“He moves like a shortstop, and you can envision that body filling out a little bit more,” Boone said. “He’s got that kind of body that looks like a future big leaguer; you can envision what that’s going to look like in a few years. I’ve seen him throw some good at-bats up there in live [batting practice] against some quality arms, and obviously, today he came over and showed well.”

The son of former Major League outfielder George Lombard Sr., Lombard made his pro debut last season, batting .311 (14-for-45) in 13 games for the Florida Complex League Yankees and Single-A Tampa in the Florida State League, where he’ll likely open the 2024 season.

“Hopefully, it’s a good year,” Lombard said. “It’s going to be a lot of baseball, more than I’ve played in a year in my life. It’s just kind of staying mentally strong throughout the whole year and sticking with my plans the whole time. Hopefully, if I trust the process and keep working hard, it’ll go pretty well.”

Stay the course
Carlos Rodón has heard the suggestions that the Yankees must add at least one starting pitcher, including a potential run at free-agent left-hander Blake Snell, which appears less likely by the day. Rodón disagrees, believing his team already has everything it needs.

“I think all of us can compete and be very good at this,” said Rodón, who tossed 2 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays on Sunday in his spring debut.

Rodón’s improved health is one reason for optimism, as the left-hander feels more comfortable now than he did at any point last spring. Rodón permitted just one hit, an Alejandro Kirk homer, while walking two and striking out five in a 48-pitch effort.

“We need him. He’s going to be a big part of this team,” said Aaron Judge. “When he’s healthy, when he’s doing his thing, he’s one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game. He’s going to be a big piece going through the season and into the postseason.”

If the season were to start today, the Yanks' rotation would feature Gerrit Cole, Rodón, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt. Rodón said the ongoing speculation about Snell and other pitchers has not affected Schmidt.

“I think Clarke has a really good mindset on that,” Rodón said. “I think he’s thinking, 'There’s only so many things I can control.' All you can control is going out there and pitching and competing. I don’t know much, but I know Clarke Schmidt is in our rotation. That’s what I know.”

Stro show
Stroman made his Yankees spring debut in a 4-0 Grapefruit League loss to the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., charged with three runs (two earned) over 2 1/3 innings. Stroman permitted four hits and one walk, striking out two in a 52-pitch effort.

The right-hander hurled a perfect first inning before running into traffic in the second, temporarily chased by a Garrett Stubbs RBI single. Spring Training rules permitted Stroman to re-enter the game in the third inning.

The Yankees were held to one hit in that contest, Greg Allen’s eighth-inning single.