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Yankees consider using an opener Monday against Tigers

Manager Aaron Boone of the Yankees looks on

Manager Aaron Boone of the Yankees looks on before the Opening Day game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on March 28, 2019, in the Bronx. Credit: Jim McIsaac

For starters, how about an opener?

The Yankees might join Major League Baseball’s growing infatuation by starting Monday’s game against the Tigers with a relief pitcher before inserting scheduled starter Domingo German.

It worked for the Orioles on Saturday as they used six pitchers -- including Nate Karns for the first two innings -- in their 5-3 victory at Yankee Stadium.

“It’s possible. We’ll see,’’ Aaron Boone said Saturday. “We got to see how these days unfold. But Domingo will pitch in some way, shape or form Monday.’’ 

Reliever Stephen Tarpley started the last exhibition game,  but that was  mainly because of the threat of inclement weather in Washington. Reliever Jonathan Holder started last Sept. 24  against the Rays at Tropicana Field. He pitched one inning before yielding to six other relievers.

The Rays used an opener with some success on numerous occasions in 2018, and other teams started to follow suit.

The Yankees'  usual rotation is without injured starters Luis Severino and CC Sabathia, both of whom are making progress at the team’s complex in Florida, Boone said.  

Hicks on the mend

Boone said he received an optimistic text from centerfielder Aaron Hicks, who is in Florida rehabbing a back injury. “It was the first time it was like ‘I feel great,’ '' the manager quoted Hicks. “He  feels really good. Hopefully we're getting to that point to where we start upping his workload and getting  him into baseball activities.’’

Hicks developed lower-back pain in spring training and essentially was shut down. “It seems kind of minor initially,’’ Boone said. “And in the grand scheme of things, we do believe it still is ... We lose a little bit here at the start but want, as best we can, not to make this something that becomes a nagging situation throughout the year.’’

Two days on, some days off

Boone will not ask shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is coming off double heel surgery, to start for more than two straight games early in the season. 

“Right now probably just a couple’’ in a row, Boone said. “In these early days, I’d probably avoid three in a row, but it’ll be fluid, how he's bouncing back, how he's able to get his prep work,  the strength stuff he does behind the scenes, the weight room, how he's responding to that. So we’ll just kind stay on top of it, but right now  early, I don't anticipate going more than a couple in a row.’’

Tulowitzki is batting .333 in his first two games. Hie homered for the first time since July 17, 2017,  on Saturday. “Everybody knows my story. It's been a long time,’’ he said. “It would have been better if we had finished it off and won the ballgame.’’

The need for speed

Closer Aroldis Chapman didn’t  top 97 mph in his ninth-inning appearance on Opening Day, and it reopened conversation that his velocity is down. “What makes Aroldis so unique and so special,'' Boone said, "his kinetic chain is freakish, so  I think once that gets really dialed in, I think the velocity will follow. Now,  is it 103, 102, I don’t know, but I would expect him to slowly start to tick back that way.’’

Boone said he wants to see more velocity from Dellin Betances, who also is in Florida on the injured list with a right shoulder impingement. Betances was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday. “I want to see it coming out a little bit hotter and better, and so does he, for that matter,’’ Boone said of Betances’ progress. “So I think we’re all on the same page with that. I feel good about where he's at right now.’’

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