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Battle for Yankees’ two rotation spots still wide open

New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino throws during

New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino throws during a spring training baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Credit: AP / Matt Rourke

TAMPA, Fla. — After a second straight underwhelming performance in the battle for the Yankees’ last two rotation spots, manager Joe Girardi on Sunday threw the competition wide open just a week before Opening Day.

After a lackluster outing by Bryan Mitchell, Girardi announced that rookie lefthander Jordan Montgomery and erratic righthander Luis Severino will get starts in the final week of spring training.

Montgomery, who burst on to the scene Thursday with an impressive outing in his first spring training start, is the only lefthander in the field. The 24-year-old also is the only one without any big-league experience. Montgomery will face the Blue Jays on Wednesday in Dunedin.

Asked if Montgomery is a serious candidate, Girardi said: “We’re talking about it. Yeah.”

Montgomery, a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft, went 14-5 with a 2.13 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A and Triple-A last season. At the higher level, he was 5-1, 0.97.

Severino, who started spring training as a favorite but faltered, re-emerged with a dominant three-inning relief outing against the Phillies on Friday in which he retired all nine batters and struck out five. He will start a road game against the Phillies on Thursday.

“We’re narrowing it down. We are,” Girardi said, perhaps signaling that some pitchers have been eliminated even though the Yankees haven’t revealed which ones. “We haven’t made any final decisions yet. We’re kind of letting these guys go through their last turn before we make the decision.”

Mitchell was the latest candidate to turn in a so-so performance when a better one might have earned him the nod. He allowed three runs in three innings-plus in the Yankees’ 7-4 win over the Rays at Steinbrenner Field. It could have been worse, as he gave up six hits, walked two and hit a batter. Mitchell, whose spring training ERA is 4.57, struck out three.

“I think the results sting a little right now,” he said. “I felt good in the first and second [innings]. Then in the third, I think I put a little too much pressure on myself trying to keep runs from scoring and kind of tried to make perfect pitches rather than just letting the defense work.”

Mitchell allowed a pair of runs in the third when Tampa Bay loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter and Brad Miller grounded a two-run single to center. Another run scored in the fourth on an error by second baseman Ruben Tejada.

“It stings a little bit right now, especially because I felt good about walks throughout spring training,” Mitchell said. “I controlled them pretty well, I thought. That’s baseball.”

Mitchell has walked five in 21 2⁄3 innings in spring training.

“I feel good,” he said. “Worrying about my next game. Hoping I get another start coming up. At this point in the game, I can’t not think about it, but I try not to as much as I can.”

The Yankees will open the season Sunday at Tampa Bay. With four exhibition games left, they are set on their top three starters: Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda.

After a day off Monday, Tanaka will face Detroit on Tuesday in his final tuneup. Girardi did not name a starter for Friday’s exhibition finale against the Braves in Atlanta’s new ballpark.

Mitchell’s outing follows Adam Warren’s mediocre performance Saturday. Warren gave up four runs in 3 2⁄3 innings against the Blue Jays and could end up in the bullpen to start the season — a season that is approaching quickly, with perhaps one more chance to impress the manager.

“You kind of look at the body of work,” Girardi said. “And then we make the decision.”


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