Yankees Spring Notes: Gray Looks Sharp, Wilson In Camp

Gray pitched two scoreless innings on Monday night in Tampa

Sonny Gray was on the mound Monday night in Tampa to bank some important Spring Training work.

It’s hard to tell whether a player is in form from a Spring Training game. With experimental lineups, rust galore, and low pitch counts there simply isn’t much that can be gleaned from a starting pitcher’s two innings on a February evening. That said, Gray held the Philadelphia Phillies scoreless through two, surrendering two hits that did not seriously threaten to score.

Expect Gray to be mission-critical to the Yankees in 2018. Having added Giancarlo Stanton to an already potent lineup, the Bronx Bombers are likely to once again live up to that mighty nickname. Still, they will have a tough division. Boston has won the AL East two seasons in a row, and they bring back the same loaded young team with a pitching staff that could be the envy of baseball in a hurry. David Price, who has been an ace everywhere else he has been, is the Red Sox’ #2 starter behind Chris Sale. Add to that rotation an improved bullpen featuring lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel and a lineup built around the multi-talented Mookie Betts, and it will take a lot to put the Yankees on top this year.

Enter Gray. A trade deadline acquisition in 2017, Sonny Gray has been waiting for another shot at a playoff run after a few down years in Oakland. Gray has a history of pitching like a top-end starter, and if he returns to that form in 2018 it will go a long way for New York. That way, there would be much less pressure on young Luis Severino to build off his remarkable 2017, and less pressure on the vaunted Yankee bullpen to hold down the fort when a starting pitcher cannot go as deep as they would have wished.

Notes from the day at Steinbrenner Field:

-Super Bowl winning quarterback Russell Wilson joined the Yankees today for some workouts. Wilson, acquired from the Texas Rangers on February 7, participated in Rangers Spring Training in 2014 and 2015. Wilson is listed as an infielder in baseball terms, and presumably would play a middle infield position if the whole football thing hadn’t worked out. Wilson played some Single-A ball with Asheville of the Colorado Rockies’ system, and in all played 93 career minor league games.

Aaron Judge spoke about meeting Wilson in his comments before the game, suggesting that he might be a little dubious at the claim that Wilson hadn’t taken any batting practice prior to Monday.

“Every minute,” Judge said of Wilson, “everything he does is for a purpose. When he’s working out, everything is for a purpose. The drills he’s doing, [they’re] for a purpose. He’s not just running through [them] to get the reps, to get a feel — it’s with a purpose. Hearing that from him was some pretty cool feedback.”

-Clint Frazier found out over the weekend that he has a concussion, and said he felt “foggy” after he crashed into the scoreboard on Saturday. Despite passing the necessary tests after it happened on Saturday, Frazier said he did not feel well on Sunday. As is always the case with concussions and baseball, it’s very much unclear how long Frazier is going to be out with his injury.

-Chase Adams, ranked the #4 Yankee prospect by Baseball America, came in to get some work on Monday night. He walked the first batter he faced, who would then come around to score, but the young pitcher was able to throw each of his pitches, including a disappearing breaking ball that missed a couple of bats. If Monday night was any indication, Adams will have to work a bit on his control moving forward. Adams walked two batters and allowed two stolen bases in his one inning of work, surrendering an earned run without a hit.

-Gary Sanchez’ defense looks ready for the regular season already. The Yankee catcher picked off Cesar Hernandez from second base to end the Phillies’ half of the third inning, after two runners stole second base during the inning.

-On the Phillies’ end, longtime reliever Francisco Rodriguez appeared Monday evening in his effort to make a comeback. Rodriguez only appeared in 28 games last season, and posted a 7.82 ERA in the process. That made it look like his career may be at an end, but the Phillies offered him a shot and he’s making the most of it. “K-Rod” struck out Didi Gregorious, the first batter he faced. The longtime reliever gave up an earned run in his inning of action on a double by Tyler Wade.

Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.