TAMPA, Fla. — The roster the Yankees will break camp with is starting to come into focus, though the final product isn’t clear yet.
The Yankees, in need of outfield depth, traded lefthanded reliever Phillip Diehl, who impressed throughout camp, to the Rockies in exchange for versatile outfielder Mike Tauchman, who Aaron Boone said potentially could break camp with the Yankees.
“It adds to it [our outfield depth], that’s for sure,” Boone said. “Excited to get a guy we feel is pretty talented and can play multiple positions in the outfield and has options. So we’ll kind of talk through and see which way we want to go.”
The lefthanded-hitting, lefthanded-throwing Tauchman, 28, made his big-league debut in 2017 with Colorado and was 9-for-59 (.153) in 52 games with the Rockies. Tauchman spent most of 2018 with Triple-A Albuquerque, recording a .323/.408/.571 slash line, 20 homers, 26 doubles and 81 RBIs in 112 games.
If the Yankees do add Tauchman, who Boone said can play all three outfield positions, to the Opening Day roster, it could come at utilityman Tyler Wade’s expense, though that hasn’t yet been determined.
After Saturday’s game, Boone said CC Sabathia will be on the Opening Day roster and will immediately begin serving the five-game suspension he received last September for intentionally hitting the Rays’ Jesus Sucre, leaving the Yankees with 24 players. After that, Sabathia will be put on the injured list and righthander Jonathan Loaisiga, optioned Saturday to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, will be called up to start at some point, likely the sixth game of the season on April 3 against Detroit.
Righthanders Domingo German and Luis Cessa will be on the Opening Day roster, Boone said, and probably will pitch in the fourth game, though it hasn’t been determined who will pitch first and in what capacity. The Yankees could employ one of them as an “opener” in the game.
“German likely will be that fourth guy,” Boone said. “Whether we start him, whether we use an opener with him, it will likely be German and then Cessa would fall kind of in the long man [role]. But that’s something fluid, too, because they’re all built up, we feel like they’re all capable. So that will be a week-by-week type of thing.”
Diehl, 24, took advantage of the late opportunity he was given as a last-minute addition to camp as a non-roster invitee. The 24-year-old posted a 4.50 ERA but didn’t allow most of those runs until late in camp. He was among the last cuts from camp on Friday night.
“I thought it was a prank,” Diehl said of his reaction when Boone told him he had been traded.
Diehl, taken in the 27th round of the 2016 draft, said earlier Saturday that he inadvertently had cut in front of Sabathia in line for the barber’s chair and thought this was a humorous form of retribution. It was not.
“I enjoyed being a Yankee to the fullest,” Diehl said. “I made some unbelievable friendships here. It’s a business at the end of the day, and I have another opportunity to potentially pitch in the big leagues with the Rockies.”
With Aaron Hicks starting the season on the injured list, Brett Gardner will shift from left to center, potentially leaving Wade as the backup centerfielder. That could change, depending on what the Yankees’ plans are with Tauchman.
Wade has been an infielder for the vast majority of his baseball life, but when the Yankees started to implement their plan to turn him into a super-utility player in 2016, they had him play some centerfield in the Arizona Fall League that year. Wade made his first spring start in center Saturday.
“I’m comfortable,” said Wade, who has played second, third and short as well as all three outfield spots. “On a scale of 1-10 [comfort in center], I’m probably an 8. I feel right at home.”
Gio Gonzalez, who agreed to a minor-league deal with the Yankees last Monday, made his debut and not surprisingly looked like a pitcher who signed just before the end of spring training.
The lefthander came on in the sixth inning, and it did not go well. Gonzalez allowed a walk and a homer by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in that inning and two more runs in the seventh, giving up a total of five hits.
“Good to actually pitch off the mound to some actual big-league hitters,” Gonzalez said. “I felt great as far as being out for the first time. I thought my changeup was right where I wanted it to be. The pitch that got hit a lot was the breaking ball.”
He added, “That’s the thing, just trying to get a rhythm and my timing. Once I figure that out, it will be totally different.”
Next for Gonzalez will be an appearance, likely in five days, in an extended spring training game in Tampa. He has an out clause in his contract that he can exercise if he’s not in the majors by April 20. Gonzalez’s base salary is $3 million if he is in the big leagues, and there are incentives that could raise that significantly.
Clint Frazier's demotion late Friday night surprised only those not paying attention.
Boone himself weeks ago all but announced that would be the case, saying Frazier, 24 — who missed much of 2018 dealing with lingering issues stemming from a concussion suffered during spring training — “needed at-bats,” a fairly clear indication that he would start the season in the minors.
Frazier, among the headline minor-leaguers acquired in the Andrew Miller trade with Cleveland in 2016, batted .130 (6-for-46) with a .208 on-base percentage in 17 games in spring training. He was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which essentially had been the Yankees’ plan, barring something unforeseen, from the time spring training began.
“My message to him was, ‘Go keep working hard at your craft,’ ” Boone said of his talk with Frazier on Friday night. " 'You have a chance to be really good in this league for a long time. Don’t be in a race that I’ve got to go put up this number this week. Go get really good at your craft and your talent will follow and carry you.' We want him to go there with a purpose because he’s going to help us this year.”
Bird gets another day
Greg Bird was in Saturday’s lineup and took full batting practice on the field with his teammates, but Boone decided to play it extra-cautious with the oft-injured first baseman, who left Wednesday’s game against the Astros in West Palm Beach after getting hit on the right elbow with a pitch. The Yankees sent Bird, 13-for-39 (.333) with a 1.131 OPS, back to Tampa on Thursday for a CT scan and an X-ray, both of which came back negative.
“I decided one more day [off] because he’s going to go play [Sunday],” Boone said. The Yankees will play their final Grapefruit League game in Fort Myers against the Twins.
“He took BP today and everything and felt good,” Boone said. “So it’s nothing more than me saying, ‘I want to wait one more day on it.’ I just decided I’d rather have all the swelling out and it not be an issue. He said, ‘I’m good to go,’ and I was like, ‘Let’s go one more day.’ It was more my call.''
Chris Gittens, a 12th-round pick of the Yankees in 2014 and a minor-league call-up Saturday, started at first and went 1-for-4.
Sanchez ready to roll
As a precaution, the Yankees held Gary Sanchez out of games until about a week into camp to give his left shoulder, which was operated on in the offseason, some extra time. The catcher, noticeably slimmer, hasn’t gotten it going offensively — he’s hitting .222 with a .237 on-base percentage in 12 games — but has shown progress behind the plate. On Friday night against the Phillies, Sanchez made a nice block on a ball in the dirt and threw out two runners.
“I feel like he’s really catching well,” Boone said. “I feel like he’s in command back there, especially when we have our [major league] pitchers out there. I feel his receiving and blocking’s been really good. Really happy where he’s at at this point this spring. I feel he’s ready to get it rolling.”
Sanchez likes where he’s at. “One thing I’ve been working on is commanding the strike zone as a hitter and building on good at-bats,” he said through his translator. “I think I’ve been able to do that this spring. It’s something I want to continue to build on.”
Tarpley wins Dawson
Lefthanded reliever Stephen Tarpley, a September call-up last year whose 0.00 ERA in 10 appearances in spring training has him in line to win a roster spot when camp breaks Sunday, was presented the James P. Dawson Award before Saturday’s game. The award is given annually to the club’s most outstanding rookie in spring training. Tarpley, 26, was one of two players to be named in the Aug. 1, 2016 trade that sent righthander Ivan Nova to the Pirates (outfielder Tito Polo was the other).