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Yankees' James Paxton thinks he pitched well in simulated game but believes he can do better

Yankees pitcher James Paxton throws in the first

Yankees pitcher James Paxton throws in the first inning of an intrasquad game at Yankee Stadium on July 15. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

James Paxton said his final tuneup before the regular season “went well,” but the lefthander wasn’t satisfied with that.

“Everything’s pretty good. I threw the ball pretty well today,” he said after an 84-pitch, five-inning simulated game Monday. “It’s just I think I can do better.”

Paxton said he’s working on some “mechanical” things, including getting better extension on some of his pitches.

“I’m still looking for the last few ticks [of velocity], trying to get that really comfortable feeling out there with my rhythm and everything,” said Paxton, slated to start the second game of the season on Saturday. “I’m working toward it. I feel like I’m ready to go.”

Paxton said he consulted with Gerrit Cole, Thursday’s starter, on some of what he’s working on.

“He’s got really good eyes for the game, understands pitching really well,” Paxton said. “So he’s really a great guy to talk to, bounce ideas off of . . . I told him what I was feeling [on my extension] and he had some really good thoughts for me.”

Extra batter, extra HR

Though Phillies starter Vince Velasquez already had recorded three outs in the fifth, Joe Girardi wanted the righthander to face one more batter to reach his pitch count. That batter was Aaron Judge, who homered to right-center on a 1-and-2 pitch.

Judge, who homered twice Sunday night against the Mets, began to break off his trot after touching second, then continued. The homer counted, cutting the Yankees’ deficit to 2-1. Mike Ford’s pinch-hit homer in the ninth tied it at 2 and the game ended in a tie after nine.

“Joe wanted Velazquez to see one more batter and Judgy obliged,” Aaron Boone said with a smile. 

Fauci to throw first pitch

The Nationals announced Monday that “Nats super-fan” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will throw the ceremonial first pitch before Thursday night’s game.

Fauci has long talked about growing up in Brooklyn as a diehard Yankees fan.

Cessa back

Righthander Luis Cessa, who missed the first two weeks of camp after testing positive for COVID-19 just before it began, threw a bullpen session Monday in his first day on the field. Cessa likely won't be ready for Thursday's opener.

“I didn’t feel anything, but it scared me when the test came back positive,” said Cessa, who added that the only symptom he felt at any point was the loss of his ability to taste. “No temperature or anything.”

Back to back for DJ

DJ LeMahieu, who also tested positive for the virus a few weeks ago, played six innings in his second exhibition game in a row.

It was another sign that LeMahieu, whose first workout was Friday, could be declared ready for Thursday’s opener.

“I’m going to push for Opening Day,” he said afterward. “But a lot of things will go into that decision …  Physically I feel great.”

New York Sports