Stanton won't be in OF for Yanks -- for now

Judge getting 'locked in' this spring; Green gaining confidence in curveball

March 21st, 2021

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Giancarlo Stanton still brings his glove out occasionally before batting practice, playing catch with teammates and making sure that his throwing arm remains ready for action. The Yankees seem to be in no rush to have the slugger patrol the outfield in a game situation.

When Stanton said earlier this spring that he intended to play the outfield, manager Aaron Boone seemed to be on board with the suggestion, stating that he believed defensive innings would help keep Stanton involved. With less than two weeks before Opening Day, the plan appears to have been temporarily shelved.

“During the season -- that’s the plan,” Stanton said on Saturday. “As the discussions went on, me and Boonie talked. I’ll be needed [in the outfield] later in the first month or two. So now isn’t as important as to just be ready to go a few weeks in.”

Stanton said that the team decided having him make an outfield start or two in a Grapefruit League game, then returning to his usual duties as designated hitter, would not serve much purpose.

“If I go out there now and then I don’t go out there for three or four weeks, it’s the same as making sure I’m ready to go during practice [before a regular-season game],” Stanton said.

The 2017 National League MVP Award winner with the Marlins, Stanton played the outfield regularly during his first season with the Yankees in '18, making 37 starts in right field and 35 in left.

Limited by numerous injuries over the past two years, Stanton’s most recent appearance in the outfield was on Sept. 28, 2019, at Texas, though Yankees personnel believed he was healthy enough to play the outfield if needed during last year’s postseason.

Regardless of his role, Stanton said that he feels prepared for the regular season to begin.

“I’m ready to rock,” Stanton said. “These are the times of spring when [you’re thinking], ‘Can we get things going here?’ So it’s good. Just refining any last bits of the swing and the timing and all that to be ready to go. It’s going to be fun.”

All rise
The Yankees are still waiting for Aaron Judge’s first home run of the year, but even without seeing the slugger trot around the bases, Boone is enthused by the way the right fielder has approached the spring.

Judge has collected seven hits in 28 at-bats (batting .250), with two doubles, two walks and eight strikeouts. More importantly, he has been healthy after being held out of action all last spring due to what was eventually revealed to be a cracked rib and a punctured lung.

“I'm really excited about where A.J. is at,” Boone said. “I think he had a really good offseason. … I think his work has been excellent to slowly get him locked in. I feel like he's moving really well on the field; he's had a lot of opportunities this spring to run the bases and go first to third. Those things are nice to have happened in Spring Training.”

Gift of grab

Jay Bruce ranged several steps to his right in the first inning of Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Orioles, leaving his feet to snare an Anthony Santander drive just in front of the left-field wall. In camp as a non-roster invitee, the 33-year-old veteran continues to showcase his ability to play multiple positions while making loud contact at the plate, stating a solid case to go north with the club.

“I feel like I’ve really adapted well to left field,” Bruce said. “I take a lot of pride in my defense, and I feel very good. My body, physically, feels great. I feel I'm in a good spot.”

Bruce has a March 25 opt-out in his Minor League contract. With bench roles likely assured to catcher Kyle Higashioka and outfielder Brett Gardner, Bruce is eyeing one of the two remaining spots, alongside hopefuls like infielder/outfielder Derek Dietrich, outfielder Mike Tauchman and infielder/outfielder Tyler Wade.

“I don't really have control over that,” Bruce said. “I know that I came to Spring Training physically ready to go. I feel like I've shown that I'm capable of handling multiple positions. My swing feels good. We'll see in five days. I’m eager to find out. My goal is to continue to get ready for the season, and I hope to help the club.”

Century club

Michael King sees multiple avenues to help the Yankees this season, be it as a starting pitcher or providing length out of the bullpen. Rather than sweat his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster, King said that he is focusing on a goal of pitching 100 innings for the big league club this season, regardless of his role.

“There are going to be a lot of innings this year, because we have no idea if all of our starters are going to be able to go 200 innings,” King said. “I want to make an impact on the team, and my goal is 100, so I don’t care if they’re starts, piggybacks, long relief, whatever it is. I think that if I contribute 100 solid innings to this team, it would be very beneficial for this season.”

King registered six strikeouts against one walk over four innings on Saturday, holding the Orioles to one run on two hits. Competing with Domingo Germán, Deivi García and others for the club’s No. 5 starter slot, King has pitched to a 3.46 ERA over 13 innings this spring.

“Getting ahead is really key for me,” King said. “Because I was able to get guys off-balance, I was able to put them away, which I was happy with.”

Curves ahead
A few days before Spring Training halted last year, Chad Green stood at his George M. Steinbrenner Field locker, showcasing his curveball grip and voicing optimism about how it could be an impact pitch for him in 2020. The right-hander is revisiting those plans this spring, again tinkering with an offering to complement his fastball.

“I think it's going in the right direction,” Green said. “I didn’t get too many reps with it last year, but having a full year to just get as many reps as possible … it’s something that I'm a lot more comfortable with, and a pitch that I think I'm gaining more confidence in.”

According to Baseball Savant, Green used that curveball 106 times last season (24.9 percent), having shelved a slider and a splitter that he used in 2019. Opponents batted .240 (6-for-25) on curveballs put in play. Facing the Phillies’ Luke Williams on Friday, Green snapped off three curves for a quick strikeout.

“It's obviously something that I need to incorporate more,” Green said. “It's just being able to throw it for strikes when I want, bouncing it when I want and knowing when a guy is going to be aggressive. It’s just being more comfortable with it and trying to get hitters out different ways.”

Up next
Right-hander Gerrit Cole will make his fourth start of the spring on Sunday as the Yankees visit the Blue Jays for a 1:07 p.m. ET contest in Dunedin, Fla., live on MLB.TV and MLB Network. Cole held the Tigers to two runs over 3 2/3 innings in his last start on Tuesday. Righty Tanner Roark will start for Toronto.