Yanks plan to use several arms in setup roles

With Britton injured, numerous relievers will be in late-inning mix for New York

March 11th, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. -- With scheduled to undergo left elbow surgery and expected to miss at least the first three months of the season, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he envisions handling setup duties by committee, giving opportunities to Chad Green, Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson.

“It will probably be more matchup-related about what we have on a given day from a usage standpoint,” Boone said on Wednesday. “We’re trying to put guys in the best matchups possible to be successful, so I would say that sixth, seventh and eighth inning will be very fluid throughout this process.”

Britton is traveling to New York to have bone chips removed from his pitching elbow, a procedure to be performed by team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. The 33-year-old Britton pitched to a 1.89 ERA in 20 appearances last year and was set to be the primary setup reliever ahead of closer Aroldis Chapman.

“Somebody is going to get an opportunity now to pitch some important innings for us,” Britton said. “Hopefully, they run with it. I’m hopeful that whoever steps into my role is going to do a great job, and I can concentrate on getting back to the level I want to be back, whenever that is.”

Boone said that the Yankees do not necessarily need to carry another left-hander to replace Britton, noting that Chapman and Wilson are both left-handed. Boone also mentioned right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga as a candidate to take on a more prominent role.

“Zack Britton is as elite a reliever as we’ve had over the last five to 10 years, so it’s a blow to lose a guy of his caliber,” Boone said. “That being said, we have a lot of confidence in the people that we do have and the opportunities that this will create until Zack is back. I feel really good about how we’ll be able to navigate it.”

Britton's setback
Britton said that he first experienced soreness in his elbow a day after tossing a bullpen session at the Yankees’ player development complex this week, but the left-hander believes that a January bout with COVID-19 affected his preparation. Britton said that he lost 18 pounds and had difficulty working out, which is part of the reason that he had yet to pitch in a spring game.

“It wiped me out pretty good for about 10 days,” Britton said. “That’s not good for your body, and it puts pressure in a lot of places. We were smart about it coming into spring and what I was going to do. I thought we were on a really good program, but it cost me about three or four weeks of throwing in the offseason.”

Britton believes that he contracted the virus at the hospital where his wife, Courtney, gave birth to the couple’s fourth child. After seeing teammates like Chapman, Luis Cessa and DJ LeMahieu recover from COVID-19 last season, Britton said he was surprised by how severely the virus affected him.

“I was not expecting to get hit that hard by COVID,” Britton said. “The weight loss was surprising, and the after-effects that I’ve been dealing with. It showed me how serious this can be, even for somebody that’s healthy, and how it can impact you even months after you’ve gotten over the roughest symptoms.”

Glove story
Giancarlo Stanton said that he expects an opportunity to play in the outfield before the Yankees break camp. Though Stanton is entering the season envisioned as the everyday designated hitter, Boone believes that the occasional start in an outfield corner would allow Stanton to feel more involved in the game.

This spring, Stanton is 3-for-10 with two doubles and a home run, which was a three-run blast in Wednesday's 6-5 win over the Pirates.

“I feel good,” Stanton said. “This time is all about getting your rhythm and timing and your sequences right, so I think the spring at-bats are good to build up and get there. I don’t really compare my end-of-season at-bats to spring at-bats; I just take these as the current process to get ready for the season.”

Aiming to bolster his repertoire with another pitch for hitters to consider, Chapman has dusted off a splitter this spring, and he used it twice during his first Grapefruit League appearance on Wednesday.

Chapman tossed a perfect fourth inning, striking out two. One of the splitters generated a swing-and-miss from the Pirates’ Wilmer Difo; the other missed low and out of the strike zone.

“I’ve been feeling really, really good with it,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “Overall, I think it had good movement.”

Boone said that he liked seeing Chapman and sidearm right-hander Darren O’Day pitch in back-to-back innings, offering two much different looks to the Pirates.

“I do like the versatility and the number of looks that we can give you,” Boone said.

Bombers bits
• Outfielder Clint Frazier sent Boone a text message early on Wednesday, telling the manager that he was “feeling strong.” Frazier crashed into an outfield wall on Tuesday in Lakeland, Fla., but he remained in the game and was later cleared by team medical personnel.

• Estevan Florial is participating in workouts at the club’s player development complex in Tampa. The outfielder’s arrival was delayed by a visa issue traveling from the Dominican Republic. Florial is the Yanks’ No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline.

• One day after Luke Voit was scratched from the Yanks’ lineup against the Tigers due to right knee soreness, the first baseman participated in infield drills prior to Wednesday’s game. Boone said that Voit had no tests and is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday.

• Catcher Robinson Chirinos was hit on the right hand by a pitch in the eighth inning, leading to him exiting Wednesday's game. Boone said that Chirinos was being examined by the team’s medical staff.

Up next
Right-hander Gerrit Cole will make his second start of the spring on Thursday as the Yankees visit the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., at 1:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV. Right-hander Aaron Nola is scheduled to start for Philadelphia.