LAKELAND, Fla. — Inside the Yankees’ organization, Tyler Wade had a chance to grab an Opening Day roster spot despite competing with stud prospect Gleyber Torres.
Early in camp, it was apparent Torres would need more time at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Tommy John surgery on his left (non-throwing) elbow last June limited him to 55 total minor league games in 2017.
Then, on March 12, the Yankees signed switch-hitting infielder Neil Walker to a one-year deal for $4 million, and it appeared if Wade made the team, it would be as a utility infielder who could handle the corner outfield spots in an emergency.
After the Yankees dropped an 8-3 decision to the Tigers on Tuesday at Publix Field, Boone said Wade had earned a spot on the 25-man roster that opens the season March 29 in Toronto.
“Wade is on the team,’’ Boone said after watching the 23-year-old left-handed hitter triple in the first inning and double in the third.
Boone said Wade’s role won’t strictly be as a utility guy.
“We feel like we have good options every day. I feel like there is plenty of at-bats for those guys,’’ Boone said of Wade, who can play third, and Walker, who can play first. “I hope they continue to play well so we have good decisions every day.’’
Wade was gone before Boone announced his roster spot, but prior to that the fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft out of Murrieta Valley (Calif.) High School wasn’t declaring he had made the team.
“I am humble and try to stay in the moment,’’ said Wade, whose .310 batting average at SWB led all qualifiers a year ago. “I control what I can control and play my game.’’
Lined up to start the fourth game of the season on April 1 against the Blue Jays in Toronto, Sonny Gray took a major step toward being ready Tuesday.
Switched from facing the Tigers in Lakeland to the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa due to a forecast of heavy rain, Gray faced Double-A Trenton and was encouraged about the outing.
“I thought I threw the ball well,” Gray said. “That is clearly the best that I’ve felt thus far, execution-wise, breaking ball-wise.
“The big thing was throwing the breaking ball for strikes. That was something I’ve been working toward. Today was a good day with that as far as execution with the breaking ball and fastball, really everything. It was a really good workday. That was the big takeaway for me today was the amount of life I had on the ball.”
According to Boone, who watched Gray for about three innings, pitching coach Larry Rothschild was pleased.
“Larry had some hop in his step when he told me about it,’’ Boone said.
Gray should benefit from starting the season with the Yankees instead of joining them in late July, as he did last year when he went 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA in 11 starts after being acquired from the A’s. In two postseason games, Gray was bad (three hits, three runs and four walks in 3 ¹/₃ innings ) against the Indians in the ALDS and good (one earned run in five innings) versus the Astros in the ALCS.
Jacoby Ellsbury took batting practice at GMS Field on Tuesday. Now the next step in his recovery from an oblique injury is getting into a game.
“If he can have a couple of good days we will have him go to Fort Myers [on Thursday] and get a couple of at-bats down there,’’ Boone said before Ellsbury worked out.
Ellsbury hasn’t played in a game since March 1 and was hit by a flu bug over the weekend that forced him to stay away from camp Monday.
While there is an outside chance Ellsbury could be on the Opening Day roster, that isn’t likely to happen, according to Boone.
During his interview for the managing job the Yankees’ brass didn’t use names of players in an exercise to see how Boone would put a lineup together.
There were questions back and forth but one thing remained clear: He was going to fill out the lineup card.
“It’s clear that it’s my call,’’ Boone said.
The Yankees received back right-hander Anyelo Gómez, who had been a Rule 5 Draft pick, from the Braves. He was assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The end of Tuesday’s game arriving: A heavy rain storm in the middle was followed by a downpour in the ninth inning of a game in which the Yankees’ second-line pitching was hammered for eight runs and 14 hits.
Of the seven Yankees hurlers who worked Tuesday at Publix Field, Ben Heller was the only one with a chance to make the big-league roster at the start of camp. It wasn’t much of a chance, but he was mentioned Monday by Aaron Boone as a bullpen candidate if the Yankees take 13 pitchers. That chance got smaller when the right-hander gave up three runs and three hits in 1 ²/₃ innings.
Greg Bird’s potential with the bat dominates most of the talk about the first baseman, but Tuesday he turned a hard-hit ground ball by Victor Martinez into a 3-6-1 double play with a nifty grab.
Luis Cessa will start Wednesday for the Yankees against the Orioles in a night game at GMS Field.