Jay Bruce has completed his audition to be a part of the 2021 Yankees. Now the waiting game begins.
The Yankees must inform Bruce by Saturday whether he will open the season on the big league roster. If not, Bruce is likely to opt out of his contract and become a free agent, allowing him the opportunity to catch on with another club by Opening Day.
“Those conversations are happening,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Trying to get different points of view and everyone able to weigh in on different things before we make the final decision.”
Bruce is slashing .194/.242/.419 with two home runs in 13 games this spring, though Boone noted Thursday that the 33-year-old (he turns 34 on April 3) has “impacted a number of balls” during his at-bats. More importantly, Bruce has shown the ability to hold down first base in addition to the corner-outfield spots, offering some versatility in the field.
“I don’t want to say I’m pleasantly surprised because I know he's done that before and has kind of looked the part, but he certainly looked the part to me over there,” Boone said. “He’s shown, I think, everything we could have hoped for when we brought him in.”
Despite that perceived endorsement, it’s still more likely that the Yankees will choose to keep Mike Tauchman -- who is out of Minor League options and would likely be snapped up in a waiver claim if made available -- ahead of Bruce.
Boone said Bruce -- who will earn $1.5 million if added to the roster -- would “stay away” from the team’s complex until the Yankees come to a resolution on his situation.
Getting his Phill
While his teammates were in Tampa for a game against the Blue Jays on Wednesday, Jordan Montgomery spent his day at the Phillies’ complex in Clearwater, Fla., throwing a rare batting-practice session against a handful of Phillies regulars.
Montgomery threw 74 pitches over five “innings,” pitching to a group that included Rhys Hoskins, Andrew McCutchen, Didi Gregorius, J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura.
“It was a little weird, but it made it more like a game,” Montgomery said. “I just went over there, and they're locked in for my five innings, and I got some good work in against some good hitters.”
The Yankees sent Montgomery to Clearwater for the unusual live BP session in lieu of a regular start, as his last Grapefruit League outing came on March 17. Montgomery has allowed one run over 10 innings in three starts this spring (0.90 ERA), solidifying a spot in New York’s rotation.
“The curveball and changeup have always been really good swing-and-miss pitches for him, but I've really liked how he's used all three of his fastballs now with the cutter; especially his last two outings, he's really used his cutter really effectively,” Boone said. “I feel like he's in a really good spot as we get ready to start the season.”
Montgomery picked up that cutter early in his career from CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, working to refine it ever since. Although he is hesitant at times to throw it in live BP at home, facing hitters from another team Wednesday gave him the confidence to use that pitch without fear.
“I got to face a lot of All-Stars over there and didn't have to worry about throwing my cutter,” Montgomery said. “You don’t want to throw a cutter in to a guy and break his hand, especially if it's your teammate. It definitely let me be more aggressive and just kind of go out there and compete.”
• Justin Wilson (left shoulder tightness) won’t throw “for at least a few days,” Boone said. The manager hopes Wilson can begin throwing by the end of the week.
• Clarke Schmidt (right elbow strain) is still not throwing, though Boone said the pitcher has been able to do upper-body work in the weight room.
“Until he is completely asymptomatic, he won't start his throwing program,” Boone said. “We're hoping that's imminent and any day, but until he gets any level of discomfort out of there, he won't start a throwing program.”
• Luis Severino, who is 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery, is “doing really well” according to Boone, who said the team has mapped out a progression plan for the right-hander. Severino threw off a mound for the first time two weeks ago, but he has been limited to fastballs thus far.
The Yankees host the Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday night, as Gerrit Cole makes his final spring start prior to Opening Day. Right-hander Jorge López is slated to start for Baltimore. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. ET (listen on MLB Audio).