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Paxton dazzles for Yanks with hitless outing

Lefty allows 1 run over 4 1/3 innings vs. Phillies' dangerous lineup
@BryanHoch
March 17, 2019

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The words "dominant" and "great" spilled out of manager Aaron Boone's mouth to summarize James Paxton's effort on Sunday afternoon, as the left-hander fired 4 1/3 hitless innings in the Yankees' 7-3 Grapefruit League victory over the Phillies at Spectrum Field. "He's one of those guys who,

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The words "dominant" and "great" spilled out of manager Aaron Boone's mouth to summarize James Paxton's effort on Sunday afternoon, as the left-hander fired 4 1/3 hitless innings in the Yankees' 7-3 Grapefruit League victory over the Phillies at Spectrum Field.

"He's one of those guys who, when he is at his best, can match other elite pitchers," Boone continued. "As good as he's already been, he doesn't have a lot of mileage on him for being 30 years of age. We feel like hopefully his best years are still to come. That's saying something, considering how good he's been. He looks really impressive to me right now."

Paxton was charged with a run in the fifth inning after a walk and wild pitch placed Andrew Knapp in scoring position. Aaron Altherr greeted reliever Chad Green with a run-scoring single, freezing Paxton's line. He walked two and struck out four, tossing 55 of 84 pitches for strikes.

"All the pitches felt good," Paxton said. "The ball was coming out well. I located pretty good. I had a few too many deep counts. I'd like to get more efficient with that and I'll get deeper in the game, but we'll work on that, and overall I thought Gary [Sanchez] did a great job behind the plate. The guys made some nice plays behind me. It went well."

Paxton is slotted to start the Yankees' second game of the season, on March 30 against the Orioles. In four spring starts spanning 11 2/3 innings, Paxton has permitted two runs on five hits (1.54 ERA), walking five and striking out 14. Sanchez said he has been impressed by Paxton's command.

"What we've been working on is getting used to each other, to the way he likes to attack hitters, learn what kind of sequences he likes to use," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "When you do that, you're able to be more economical, more effective getting guys out. He's been great."

Drive for 95

Dellin Betances typically needs to build his velocity early in the spring, and his telltale sign that everything is going to be fine comes when the right-hander sees 95 mph on the stadium radar gun. He hasn't yet.

Betances worked a clean sixth inning on Sunday, including a strikeout of Bryce Harper, who fanned at a 90-mph fastball. Of that, Betances said, "I think we're both not ready right now." He touched 92 mph in Sunday's eight-pitch appearance and has maxed at 93 mph this spring.

"Every spring it's taken me a little while, then you see it build progressively," Betances said. "I'm not there yet, but I'm hoping that this last week or so that I'll get there. Then once the season starts, I'll get that two or three extra [mph]."

Catching Betances for the first time this spring, the lack of heat prompted Sanchez to trot to the mound, checking to see if the hurler felt OK. Betances replied that he did. On the positive side, Betances said he was especially pleased with the movement on his breaking balls.

"I threw a two-strike breaking ball to Harper that he almost chased that was really good, then I threw a slower one to [Rhys] Hoskins and I got him to ground out. So the breaking balls were good and the fastball location was good. It's just the arm strength is not there."

What's Kraken?

Sanchez went hitless in four at-bats on Sunday and is 5-for-26 (.192) this spring, with a homer and three RBIs, but the backstop believes he is closer to reclaiming his 2016-17 form than it might appear.

"I feel really good this spring," Sanchez said. "I feel that defensively it has been a good spring for me so far, and I feel like I'm improving every day. Offensively I haven't gotten the results I want, but you've also got to have patience."

Sanchez -- who was clipped on the right pinkie and biceps by a pitch on Sunday but said he was fine -- has experienced no setbacks related to the left shoulder surgery performed in November. But he said it is too soon to know if his subpar 2018 season will serve as a footnote in an otherwise promising career.

"If I could predict the future, man, what a gift that would be," Sanchez said. "I can tell you that I feel very good. I've said this before, health is number one. I feel healthy right now."

Bombers bits

• Jacoby Ellsbury arrived at Yankees camp on Sunday morning, 27 days behind the team's other position players. Ellsbury had been in Phoenix, with his rehab from left hip surgery slowed by plantar fasciitis. He has been hitting off a tee and playing catch at short distances.

• Tyler Wade, who is mounting a strong case to be included on the Opening Day roster, played seven innings in center field on Sunday. It was Wade's first start of the spring at the position, coming as a result of injuries to Aaron Hicks (lower back tightness) and top prospect Estevan Florial (fractured right wrist).

• Harper was among those buzzing about the velocity shown by 24-year-old left-hander Anderson Severino, who touched 100 mph several times in a scoreless ninth inning. Severino, who compiled a 3.74 ERA last year at Class A Charleston and Class A Advanced Tampa, walked two and struck out two.

Up next

The Yankees are on the road Monday, visiting the Braves for a 6:05 p.m. ET contest in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- marking the Yanks' final visit to the Walt Disney World Resort before Atlanta relocates its camp to North Port, Fla. Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka starts for New York, opposite right-hander Bryse Wilson.

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