TAMPA, Fla. — Sunday was a rough day for a pair of former Mets trying to make the Yankees.
The Yankees released lefthander Jon Niese after only six spring training appearances. Ruben Tejada, who is trying to make the roster as a backup infielder or even the starting shortstop, had three misplays at second base in the Yankees’ 7-4 victory over the Rays at Steinbrenner Field.
Tejada, who was charged with one error, did hit his first home run. In deciding who will replace the injured Didi Gregorius for at least the first month of the season, though, the Yankees probably will be looking for sure-handedness in the field, not unexpected prowess at the plate.
Non-roster player Pete Kozma started at short and went 1-for-3. Kozma, who spent parts of five seasons with the Cardinals, is considered a defensive whiz but is batting .206.
As for Niese, he had a 4.50 ERA in six innings. The former starter with the Mets and Pirates is trying to re-establish himself as a reliever, but the Yankees felt his arm strength isn’t up to snuff as he recovers from knee surgery.
“We just don’t think his arm strength is where it’s going to be,” Joe Girardi said. “We think he’s behind . . . We think he has a chance to catch up, but he’s just not there physically.”
The Yankees would be open to re-signing Niese for the minors or extended spring training if he can’t catch on elsewhere.
The competition for the rightfield job is heating up. Aaron Hicks went 2-for-3 with his third home run and three RBIs and Aaron Judge was 2-for-3. Hicks, who played left, is batting .286. Judge is hitting .321.
Girardi didn’t rule out a platoon to start the season. “There’s different things we can talk about with those two guys,” he said. “We’ve thrown a lot of scenarios out there, believe me.”