Some notes on the Yankees and Royals to kick off Sunday morning:
- Jordan Montgomery is the “overwhelming favorite” for the fourth spot in the Yankees’ rotation, notes George King III of the New York Post. That’s not especially surprising, given that the lefty’s Tommy John procedure is now 21 months behind him. The 27-year-old’s strong 2017 rookie season positions him well to step up in the wake of injuries to Luis Severino and James Paxton. The final spot in the rotation is still entirely up for grabs, although King feels Jonathan Loaisiga is the early frontrunner. Surprisingly, King notes that right-hander Clarke Schmidt could be in the fifth starter mix after turning some heads early in spring training. The 24-year-old was the Yankees’ first-round pick out of the University of South Carolina in 2017, but he’s made all of three career starts above High-A, thanks largely to rehab from a Tommy John of his own. That, coupled with Schmidt’s roster status (he needn’t be added to the 40-man until after this season), would seem to make him a long shot for a season-opening role.
- One pitcher who might not be as strong a contender for the Yankees’ final rotation spot is Luis Cessa, whom King says the club “seemingly likes…in the bullpen.” That jibes with a similar report from Bryan Hoch of MLB.com earlier this week, although Hoch’s report came before news broke of Severino’s season-ending Tommy John surgery. From the outside, it appeared that blow could have changed the calculus on Cessa’s potential usage, but it seems he’s still more likely to occupy a bullpen role in 2020. The 27-year-old has started 19 of his 86 career MLB appearances, but he was used exclusively as a reliever in 2019.
- Salvador Pérez logged four innings behind the plate in the Royals’ spring training game Friday (h/t to the Associated Press). That marked his first catching action since his Tommy John surgery last March. “It was kind of like Opening Day — once you catch the first pitch, it’s a regular game,” Pérez said postgame, via the AP. “I blocked some balls, threw to second base between innings. It was all great.” At last check, the 29-year-old was on track to be ready for Opening Day. In 2018, Pérez hit just .235/.274/.439 (89 wRC+), but he’s long shouldered extremely high workloads behind the plate in Kansas City.