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Yankees send talent evaluator to watch Dallas Keuchel

Dallas Keuchel pitches against the Yankees in Game

Dallas Keuchel pitches against the Yankees in Game 5 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It remains to be seen just how “in” the Yankees plan to be on Dallas Keuchel, but they did send one of their top talent evaluators to Newport Beach, California, on Sunday afternoon to take a look.

The 2015  American League Cy Young Award winner, who is a free agent, has been throwing simulated games every five days or so near the headquarters of his agent, Scott Boras, and the Yankees’ representative attended Sunday’s rain-shortened outing.  

The Yankees have showed little to no interest in the 31-year-old lefthander, who is 76-63 with a 3.66 ERA in his seven-year career with the Astros, including 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA last season.

Fans salivating at the possibility of Keuchel signing with the Yankees should keep in mind that the organization almost always does its due diligence on players who are available, even the ones they have little interest in. Insiders indicate the Yankees aren’t likely to break the bank — either in years or dollars — for Keuchel but wanted to get a closer look at him even though there are questions about how much he has left.

Keuchel became a free agent after rejecting the Astros’ $17.9 million qualifying offer. 

Paxton could be back this week

Crisis averted, it appears, with James Paxton.

The lefthander could return as soon as Wednesday. However, the left knee inflammation that put him on the injured list May 4 might be a lingering condition that he will have to manage the rest of the season.

“We’ll see,” Aaron Boone said Sunday. “We hope it’s something that when he comes back and is pitching, it’s something that continues to improve over time. There is the possibility it could be one of those things he’s got to grind through.”

Paxton, who complained of continued discomfort in his left knee after throwing a simulated game Friday in Tampa, flew back to New York on Sunday night. He’ll be evaluated by team doctor Christopher Ahmad and could be activated in time to start Wednesday afternoon against the Padres at the Stadium.

On Sunday, Boone said he had not spoken with Paxton, 3-2 with a 3.11 ERA in seven starts before he went to the IL. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild and trainer Steve Donohue did speak with him by phone after Paxton threw a side session Sunday morning in Tampa and went through a round of PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice).

“Everything went pretty well,” Boone said. “Hoping that he’s in line to now join the rotation.”

Judge in the swing?

Aaron Judge (oblique strain), who mostly has been limited to light running and throwing the last couple of weeks, told the YES Network on Sunday morning that he doesn't feel any pain and could begin swinging a bat and doing tee work at some point in the next week.

Didi rising

Didi Gregorius, whose rehab clock started Saturday night with high Class A Tampa, was slated to serve as the DH on Sunday. After an off day Monday, when he will work out in Tampa, he will fly north Tuesday to continue his rehab with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Boone anticipates that Gregorius, working his way back from offseason Tommy John surgery, will need “a week to two weeks” with Scranton before being ready.

Dellin’s next step

Boone said Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement), who has been throwing for several weeks, will progress to throwing off a mound Monday or Tuesday.

The more things change …

Before the game, righthander Jake Barrett was placed on the IL with right elbow inflammation, giving the Yankees 15 players on the list. Barrett felt “discomfort,” Boone said, while warming up Saturday night. Righthander Joe Harvey was recalled. 

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