Joey Gallo during a spring training at-bat for the Yankees...

Joey Gallo during a spring training at-bat for the Yankees in 2022. Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky

TAMPA, Fla. – The Yankees had their struggles against the Blue Jays in 2021, going 8-11 against the powerful, athletic Toronto lineup, and they’re 0-for-2 in spring training against a team many see as the favorite in the AL East.

They were outhit 13-6 in a 9-2 loss last Tuesday in Dunedin and fell behind 8-4 after seven innings in a 10-9 loss Saturday at Steinbrenner Field. The Blue Jays outhit them 13-11.

“A lot of good, young talent over there,” said Giancarlo Stanton, who hit a titanic homer halfway up the scoreboard in left-center Saturday. “They’re going to be a good team.”

Aaron Judge, who doubled and scored a run, cited young stars Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, among others.

“Those guys are just going to continue to get better,” Judge said. “They’ve got a great outfield, a great infield core. They’re going to be a tough opponent all year.”

Which isn’t to say the Yankees feel they’re lacking when it comes to their lineup.

“Very dynamic,” Stanton said in describing his club. “We’re going to be great as well but, again, we’ve got to just put it together for a full season.”

Joey Gallo and Rob Brantly hit three-run homers and Miguel Andujar added a solo shot for the Yankees.

Add-ons coming?

General manager Brian Cashman continues to look for reinforcements, particularly in the starting pitching department. To this point, the asking prices from opposing teams that have rotation help available – the A’s, for example – have been prohibitive.

“We’ve stayed in touch, engaged a lot of clubs about what our needs seem to be right now,” Cashman said. “If something comes out of any of those discussions, great. And if not, we’re prepared to go with what we have here and pull from what we have in the minors.”

With a projected payroll in the range of $256 million for this season, Cashman quickly came to the defense of managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner when asked how much “leeway” he has to add to the payroll.

“All I’d say is, we have the highest payroll in the history of this franchise, and that’s because our ownership is massively committed to trying to field a winner in this city for this fan base,” Cashman said. “Obviously, anything that presents itself I bring to Hal and he ultimately makes the final decision on what fits and what doesn’t fit. He’s provided a lot of flexibility thus far that results in our highest payroll ever. It doesn’t mean it won’t get higher, but [that]  doesn’t mean it will, either.”

Birdie time

Greg Bird, a fifth-round pick of the Yankees in 2011 whose career in pinstripes was ruined by injuries, pinch hit with runners at second and third and one out in the seventh against Yankees righthander  Vinny Nittoli.   Bird, who signed a minor-league deal with Toronto earlier this month and who heard a small handful of boos when announced Saturday, drew a walk. The first baseman, who has an outside chance to stick as a DH/backup first baseman, then crushed a two-run homer in the eighth off righty Reggie McClain, giving him  a .417 batting average and 1.588 OPS in six Grapefruit League games.

Keeping hidden

The Yankees had Jameson Taillon, who made his exhibition debut five days earlier, pitch a three-inning simulated game at the club’s minor-league complex late Saturday morning rather than face the Blue Jays, whom he’ll likely face in the second series of the regular season. Though this decision took some flak on social media, it is a common practice for pitchers on every team, especially veteran pitchers.

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