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This is just a taste of Aaron Judge’s massive potential — April 27, 2017

This is just a taste of Aaron Judge’s massive potential

By Mike Vaccaro

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BOSTON — The assumption was this would be something of a learning-curve week for Aaron Judge, a little work-study in right field at Fenway Park where the fence resembles the old hockey boards at Boston Garden. Baseballs bounce and ricochet this way and that at the Fens, where the angles and curves have inspired more than one visiting veteran through the years to volunteer for the bench or the DH.

“I’m going to need to get used to that,” Judge had said Tuesday, a few minutes after that game was postponed, a few minutes before he’d walk out there in the rain and have a quick gander at his new quarry.

So this is how Judge decided to acclimate himself: First, he sent a search party out that way Wednesday night in the form of a crushed baseball, finding the bullpen with the first swing he ever took at Fenway in the top of the second inning. That gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead on the way to a 3-1 victory over the Red Sox in the first meeting of 2017 between these ancient rivals.

Then, an inning later, with a man on second and one out, Boston’s Xander Bogaerts lofted a twisting foul ball a few paces shy of the Pesky Pole, right field’s signature monument. Judge could have let the ball fall harmlessly foul in the stands, but what fun is that? Instead, he lunged over the wall, disappeared from sight, then re-emerged with the ball in his hands.

The umpires didn’t believe what they saw and called it out of play. That was overturned on replay. The catch helped preserve Luis Severino’s seven-inning shutout, and it provided one more piece of testimony to just how quick a study the rookie behemoth is. Oh, and for kicks, he worked out a two-out walk in the sixth, and came around to score on Greg Bird’s double off the wall.

Did we mention it was his 25th birthday?

It was his 25th birthday. He is now legally allowed to rent a car. And also to carry his baseball team from time to time.

“He puts the bat on the ball and he gets it in the air,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, “he’s got a good chance to get it out.”

Girardi admitted to holding his breath the whole way watching the 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge run a post pattern straight for the ball, speeding along a slick outfield, speeding toward a wall that barely comes up to his thigh, then watching him disappear into the crowd.

“He risked his body,” Girardi said, before adding, wry smile for emphasis: “The wall probably didn’t like it, either.”

To Judge, of course, this was all in a night’s work. The most impressive part about Judge’s April may well be how unimpressed he is with himself — even as the rest of baseball starts to take notice of all the things he does well.

Was he worried about the wall? “No, just trying to make a play to help Seve.”

Was he pleased that with the Green Monster looming in left, his home run went the other way, the opposite way, a much farther destination? “I was just happy to get us a couple of quick runs.”

Was that as good a way to celebrate his 25th birthday as he could think of?

“Maybe 26 will be even better,” he said. “You never know.”

What we do know, what seems more and more evident as the weeks pass and the moments assemble and Judge does more and more things to keep the Yankees winning, is this: There have been hundreds of April heroes, thousands of them, kids who rule the quirky early calendar before being swallowed whole by the grind.

Judge doesn’t look anything like someone who will be swallowed whole by the grind, and he looks even less like someone who would ever think he’d arrived before he really had. He just keeps adding highlights — a 450-foot homer here, a one-handed served single there, and a first career night at Fenway Park when it looked like it had been his corner office for years.

“It’s impressive, what he’s done,” Girardi said.

Aaron Judge might be the only person who’d care to disagree.

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Aroldis Chapman grabs elbow, should Yankees worry? —

Aroldis Chapman grabs elbow, should Yankees worry?

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New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the ninth inning at PNC Park. The Yankees won 11-5.

By Brendan Kuty

BOSTON — Time to panic?

Aroldis Chapman said no, but the circumstances pointed to possible trouble.

Chapman grabbed his left elbow immediately after he closed out the Yankees’ 3-1 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Wednesday.

The fireballing closer fanned Josh Rutledge with a 98-mph fastball and as catcherAustin Romine put a congratulatory arm around his shoulder, Chapman briefly clutched the crucial joint.

Afterward, however, Chapman said it was nothing.

“I feel fine,” Chapman said, via team translator Marlon Abreu. “Thank God, I feel fine.”

There seems to be reasons to worry, though.

Chapman, whose fastball had averaged 100 mph in seven outings this season, touched the century mark just once. Instead, it averaged 98.7 mph, according to Brooks Baseball. He also got just two swings and misses.

Chapman needed a season-high 33 pitches to get through the inning, in which he allowed a run and then put runners on the corners for Rutledge. Rutledge put a scare into the Yankees when he lifted a slider for a long fly to left field, but it stayed foul. On the next pitch, Chapman ended it.

Manager Joe Girardi said Chapman’s recent lack of action could have been why the closer struggled. He had only pitched twice since April 17, his last appearance coming Saturday.

“He hasn’t had a lot of work and that could have something to do with it,” Girardi said.

Chapman didn’t allow any excuses.

“I would not blame not throwing for a couple of days or blame the weather at all. It’s just sometimes you’re not as sharp. That’s it,” the 28-year-old said.

Derek Jeter will be able to change loyalties from Yankees to Marlins — April 26, 2017

Derek Jeter will be able to change loyalties from Yankees to Marlins

By David Lennon

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Yankees’ Derek Jeter waves to fans as he is introduced when Bernie Williams plaque in Monument Park was dedicated before l game against the Texas Rangers Sunday, May 24, 2015, at Yankee Stadium.

BOSTON — Derek Jeter’s pursuit of an ownership stake in the Marlins didn’t come as any surprise to people around the Yankees, some of whom heard the former captain talk about his lofty ambition while still wearing pinstripes.

“One thousand percent,” said CC Sabathia, who remembered those conversations. “This was something he wanted to do.”

Only now it’s looking like a reality — less than three years since Jeter played the final game of a two-decade career with the Yankees. It’s materialized so quickly that the team has yet to retire his No. 2 or give him a plaque in Monument Park. That won’t happen until May 14, and we figure he’ll leave the Marlins gear at home for the occasion.

The concept of Jeter running another franchise after building a Hall of Fame resume in the Bronx isn’t quite as jarring as it would have been to see him wearing another uniform. But becoming a part-owner of the Marlins, backed by the investment group headed by Jeb Bush, does cast his post-playing relationship with the Yankees in a different light.

Jeter has kept his distance from the team since calling it quits at the end of the 2014 season. And most noticeably during spring training, when he has declined to stop by at Steinbrenner Field, despite having his home just down the road in Tampa. While Jeter does have some involvement with the Yankees’ minor-leaguers, and takes them out to dinner each spring, much of that stems from his close friendship with Gary Denbo, the club’s vice president of player development.

Evidently, Jeter’s absence was more than wanting a break from the game because he didn’t hesitate to jump right back in with the Marlins, who likely will soon have the Yankees’ legend as the face of their franchise. And by doing so, it could effectively put an end to Jeter ever wearing pinstripes again, in any capacity. Joe Girardi mentioned how the team was rebuffed in their efforts to get him to Steinbrenner Field this spring, at a time when the Yankees could have used his popularity to help kick-start the new Baby Bomber movement.

“We called him and tried to get him to come this year,” Girardi said after Tuesday’s game at Fenway Park was postponed by rain. “It just didn’t fit his schedule.”

Jeter’s retirement is full of non-baseball interests, with the website he founded for athletes to tell stories in their own words and as well as a publishing imprint. He married the model Hannah Davis, who is expecting the couple’s first child next month, right around the time Derek Jeter Day is set for the Bronx. That might also create some scheduling conflicts.

If indeed the Marlins sale does go through, that May 14 night at the Stadium could very well be Jeter’s final act as a Yankee. At least on that particular patch of grass. He’ll have his day in Cooperstown, of course, with the NY cap on his plaque. But Jeter’s loyalties going forward have to be with the Miami franchise and anyone that played alongside him doesn’t believe it will be a tough transition. Even when the two teams go head-to-head, Jeter’s competitive streak would beat out the nostalgia.

“I think he’d want to win,” Sabathia said.

And it’s not like Jeter is getting involved with the Marlins to pull levers behind the scenes. He’s the one bringing the baseball cred to the Bush group, and as such, probably will be called on to be more of a public presence. Jeter chose his words carefully during his tenure as the Yankees’ captain, mindful of his extremely high profile in the sport, but we have to assume his Marlins’ role with a billion-dollar organization is going to carry significantly more responsibility than his shortstop gig.

When Jeter first talked about owning a team, and someday being the shot-caller for an MLB franchise, it was only natural to envision him with the Yankees, the only team he’d ever played for. But maybe now there is the additional allure of competing against them. If not always directly, as an NL team, then in the same 30-club arena.

“I think he’ll always be considered a Yankee,” Girardi said.

And now we’re about to see if the Bronx-honed talent travels well to South Beach.

Before Crouching Behind Yankees’ Plate, Austin Romine Brushes Away Adversity — April 23, 2017

Before Crouching Behind Yankees’ Plate, Austin Romine Brushes Away Adversity

By BILLY WITZ

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Yankees catcher Austin Romine, with pitcher Luis Severino, before a game against the White Sox last week at Yankee Stadium.

PITTSBURGH — When Austin Romine returned from the Triple-A All-Star Game two years ago, it was with a bounce in his step, certain that he had rejuvenated his career. Just a few months before, Romine had been the final cut by the Yankees after playing poorly in spring training. Free to sign with any club, he returned to the Yankees’ top minor-league affiliate, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, because no other team was interested in him.

But as Romine walked into the visitor’s clubhouse in Louisville, Ky., he caught sight of a newcomer in the room, Gary Sanchez, the organization’s top catching prospect.

Immediately, Romine’s heart sank.

He knew what that meant: Sanchez, four years younger, was there to take his job.

“You don’t ever want to come back from an All-Star Game and now you’re a backup,” Romine said. “I understand the situation and the talent that he is, but nobody wants to swallow that.”

If it is a catcher’s duty to soak up punishment and cajole the best out of others, Romine has applied those lessons to himself, setting aside the game’s frustrations and enduring long enough so that he, as a formerly bright prospect, might have one more chance to blossom.

Having surprised even himself by making the Yankees last season, Romine has surprised others in the way he has played since Sanchez, a budding star, went out with a biceps injury two weeks ago.

In his place, Romine has hit .324, with an .840 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, while also earning plaudits for managing the pitchers, who have a 3.13 earned run average when he is behind the plate. The Yankees have won nine of the 11 games Romine has started.

On Saturday, he broke up Jameson Taillon’s no-hitter with two outs in the fifth, the first of his two hits, and scored a run in the Yankees’ 11-5 victory.

Though his stint as a major league regular may not be long — Sanchez has begun to throw and swing a bat and is expected to return in two weeks — Romine is relishing an opportunity that took so long to arrive.

A second-round draft pick in 2007, Romine, at one point, looked like the heir apparent to Jorge Posada. He was the Yankees’ minor league player of the year in 2009 and 2011, and twice played in M.L.B.’s Futures Game, delivering the game-winning hit in 2011 off Kansas City’s All-Star reliever Kelvin Herrera.

Among Romine’s teammates that day were the future All-Stars Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey, Jason Kipnis, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Wil Myers.

But Romine plateaued and watched the Yankees’ confidence in him wane, as they signed free agents (Russell Martin and Brian McCann), made trades (Chris Stewart) and promoted catchers in the organization (Francisco Cervelli, Jesus Montero and John Ryan Murphy).

“My journey has been one of a lot of weird circumstances,” said Romine, 28, who spent last season as the backup to McCann, only after Sanchez had an awful spring, hitting .091. “It was hard to be passed up, sent down, overlooked by every other team, not wanted — you can put whatever words you want on it — but all it did was put a chip on my shoulder, and a positive chip, to prove to everybody that I can do it, to prove anybody wrong that says I can’t.”

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Romine hitting a broken-bat, run-scoring single during last week’s series against the White Sox. Playing in place of the injured Gary Sanchez, Romine has hit .324 and has earned praise for the way he has managed pitchers.

Romine said that through his travails, he had come to understand the importance of enjoying the game, of finding the joy in its mundane details, the kind that can beat a player down. He has also softened his resentment toward Cervelli for his use of performance-enhancing drugs, which was discovered in baseball’s Biogenesis investigation and led to a 50-game suspension in 2013. (Montero was also suspended in the Biogenesis scandal after he had been traded.)

Over the weekend, Romine shared home plate with Cervelli, who was traded in 2014 to Pittsburgh, where he has flourished, receiving a three-year, $31 million contract extension after last season.

Romine said in an interview last season that it bothered him that he had been competing against a player using P.E.D.s. Reminded recently of those comments, Romine said they were normal emotions for someone in his position, adding: “I don’t have any ill will toward anybody. I wish him the best. You have the value that you make for yourself. I wasn’t doing anything to build my stock into anything more than I was, which was a backup and a Triple-A player.”

Cervelli said before the series began that Romine had never expressed any antipathy toward him.

“He has the right to say anything he wants,” Cervelli said. “I don’t get mad. If he feels that way about me, it’s cool. He’s got the right to say that. I know why I did it, and that’s it. I don’t have to tell anyone. He has the opportunity now, and he’s always had the opportunity to play with the Yankees. He’s a good prospect. He’s an amazing catcher.”

The players were cordial Friday night, acknowledging each other but doing little more.

The unforgiving nature of the baseball business is something that Romine has long been versed in. His older brother, Andrew, is a utility infielder with the Detroit Tigers. Their father, Kevin Romine, was an outfielder for the Boston Red Sox in the late 1980s and early ’90s, where he was a teammate of Austin’s position coach with the Yankees, Tony Pena.

“I remember when he was born,” Pena said of Austin Romine.

Kevin Romine got his shot with the Red Sox when center fielder Ellis Burks was hurt in 1989. He filled in capably and found himself as the opening day right fielder in 1990, hitting two doubles off Detroit’s Jack Morris to help Roger Clemens win at Fenway Park. But less than a month later, the Red Sox traded for Tom Brunansky, who possessed the power that Romine did not. Two years later, he returned home to Southern California and became a police officer.

“It’s a very — I don’t want to say cutthroat business — but it’s realism,” Kevin Romine said in a phone interview. “What have you done for me today? You are who you are. You don’t try to make excuses and you try to be better. But the game owes you nothing.”

In Austin Romine’s mind, there is little mystery about why he is ready now for the opportunity his father told his sons would always come, whether it was four at-bats, four games or four weeks.

No longer is he “an out at the plate” as he says he was in 2013, when he hit .207 while serving as a backup most of the season after Cervelli broke his hand. He no longer is trying to pull every pitch, and he is using the whole field. His home run and both of his doubles have been to right field, and he has pulled only five of the 33 balls he has put in play.

“Austin’s keeping his sights in the middle of the field, and when you do that, you can hit multiple pitches and live with the results,” the hitting coach Alan Cockrell said. “You can only handle a small little area when you’re trying to pull everything.”

The pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who is typically measured in his praise, lauded Romine’s work with the Yankees’ staff. The team’s E.R.A. was lower with Romine behind the plate last season (3.88 compared with Brian McCann’s 4.18 and Sanchez’s 4.41), and Rothschild said Romine had excellent nonverbal communications techniques, such as using his glove to emphasize that he wants a pitch out of the strike zone.

Romine also absorbs the detailed scouting reports — and knows when to discard them.

“Common sense is the bottom line,” Rothschild said. “When you’re watching a game, there may be stuff happening that goes against the reports and you’ve got to react, and he does a really good job with that. The hitter will give you the road map, telling you, at times, with bad swings how to get him out, and you better be able to follow it.”

All of it, the more modest approach at the plate, and the canny mind behind it, have dovetailed nicely for Romine and at just the right time. Before long, Sanchez will be returning, and the current backup, Kyle Higashioka, hit 21 homers in the minor leagues last season.

Still, Romine’s circuitous journey has not dulled his ambition.

“I still want to start. I still think I can start,” Romine said. “It will be tough here, obviously, but any guy that sits here and says he’s fine being a backup, there’s no drive. I don’t want to be a backup. It’s my job right now, and I want to do the best job I can for the other 24 guys in the room. But I’m working for something bigger and better. I want more.”

Pirates’ Ivan Nova on newfound success, leaving Yankees, Larry Rothschild and more —

Pirates’ Ivan Nova on newfound success, leaving Yankees, Larry Rothschild and more

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By Randy Miller

6 Yankees whose stocks are on the rise — April 21, 2017

6 Yankees whose stocks are on the rise

By Brendan Kuty

Why Red Sox legend is behind Yankees’ Starlin Castro’s hot start — April 20, 2017

Why Red Sox legend is behind Yankees’ Starlin Castro’s hot start

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Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro, left, and Red Sox great Manny Ramirez.

By Brendan Kuty

NEW YORK — A Red Sox legend may be behind Starlin Castro‘s hot start.

The Yankees second baseman pointed to offseason mentorship from Manny Ramirez when asked about how he’s been able to hit .368 — second-best on the team — after Wednesday’s 9-1 win over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium.

“We got a good relationship,” Castro said. “We always text.”

Castro and Ramirez talked specifically about how the 27-year-old could “stop getting myself out,” he said. That meant trying to swing at fewer bad pitches, Castro said.

“We were just talking about how to see the ball better, trying to be square in our stance all the time, swinging at only pitches for strikes,” Castro said, sitting at his locker.

Manager Joe Girardi said there would be few people better to learn from than Ramirez, widely considered one of the best right-handed hitters of all time. Ramirez has 555 career homers with a .312 batting average and 1,813 RBI.

The 44-year-old, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2011 and was twice suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs, signed a deal with to play Japanese independent ball this season.

“Manny didn’t chase a lot,” Girard said. “Manny knew what he could hit. He used the whole field to drive the ball to right-center. He was a great hitter. He’s a good guy to talk to.”

Castro’s free-swinging approach has been a help and hinderance to his career. He went to three All-Star games with the Cubs, mostly on the back of high batting averages with balls in play while drawing few walks. His down seasons have mostly come when he hasn’t recorded high BABIP averages.

Through 14 games and 55 at-bats this season going into Wednesday’s, Castro’s BABIP was .400 — much higher than the league average of .285, according to Fangraphs.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, though. While Castro’s swing rates at pitches inside and outside of the zone haven’t changed all that much from his so-so 2016 campaign, he had a much higher contact rate (94.4 percent) when he swung at pitches in the zone than the league average mark (85.7 percent). His in-the-zone contact rate was also substantially higher than it was last season (86.2).

Castro and Ramirez became close in 2015, when Castro was playing with the Cubs and Ramirez was hired as the team’s batting consultant.

“He’s using the whole field,” Girardi said. “You look at the double he had the other day, it bounced into the bullpen. He’s just using the whole field. When Starlin swings at strikes, he’s really good.”

The deadline blockbusters that Yankees copycats could offer —

The deadline blockbusters that Yankees copycats could offer

By Joel Sherman

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Theo Epstein exclaimed, “If not now, when?”, and the mindset/motto for last year’s trade deadline was formed.

The Cubs’ president of baseball operations was explaining why he gave up an elite prospect, Gleyber Torres, to land Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees. An Indians executive could have offered the same sentiment in explaining all they surrendered for Andrew Miller.

Of course, Brian Cashman could have stated the same, in the opposite direction, in trading Chapman and Miller – “if not know, when” to seize the best opportunity for a renovation? I wonder if this is setting us up for this July’s main explanation for major moves: “If the Yankees can be sellers, why can’t we?”

In the last betting lines offered by Bovada before the season, the top seven over-under win totals belonged to the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Nationals, Astros and Mets.

The next five were the Giants, Mariners, Cardinals, Rangers and Blue Jays – between 84.5 and 87.5 wins. Going into Thursday, those teams had five of the majors’ worst nine records. Yes, it is still early, enough time for a few of those teams to reverse toward expected contention (Seattle, for example, won five of six after a 2-8 start). But all five? That seems unlikely when each already has demonstrated shortcomings that are not easily fixed.

I think all, if motivated to sell, would behave like the Yankees – deal in the short term to improve the long term, but without going into a total rebuild. But think about what their presence could mean to the trade deadline marketplace:

1. Giants

Their history is to go for it (but so was the Yankees’). They have an older roster, a tepid farm system, the Dodgers looking like an NL West monster for years to come and the Rockies and Diamondbacks possibly being factors as early as this season. Their most intriguing trade piece would be Johnny Cueto, who is in season two of a six-year, $130 million contract, but who can opt out after this season.

There is risk that a team acquires Cueto and he doesn’t opt out — then either declines or gets injured. Or, perhaps, there are teams that hope Cueto would stay instead of wading into the free-agent market. How would the Giants even know how to properly assess value for a player who can stay or opt out? Might the Giants consider dealing Matt Moore or Jeff Samardzija instead?

Versatile Eduardo Nunez is in his walk year and would draw interest.

2. Mariners

No one has made near as many trades in the past 12 months as Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto. But that has been with eyes on ending the majors’ longest playoff drought (since 2001). Thus, the Mariners are the least likely on this list to sell. Also, they do not have obvious pieces that draw a lot in return. Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez have too much owed on their contracts, in years and dollars, while in their 30s to garner a big return. Perhaps Nelson Cruz ($14 million owed in 2018) would be appealing.

3. Cardinals

They lack prime stars and have too many similar types jamming the roster, leaving them unable to create a fearsome lineup or strong defense. They can better position themselves for next year, when Alex Reyes should be back after Tommy John surgery to top the rotation with Carlos Martinez.

Would they deal Matt Carpenter? He would get far more in return than more expendable infielders Matt Adams, Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong. Lance Lynn and closer Seung-hwan Oh are in their walk years.

4. Rangers

They have expended a lot of farm system assets in recent years to shoot for their first title (unsuccessfully). So, they could use a reboot. They would love to re-sign Yu Darvish, but if they don’t, would they move the free-agent-to-be? Catcher Jonathan Lucroy also is set to become a free agent, as are Carlos Gomez and Mike Napoli. Cole Hamels has just one more guaranteed year after 2017, but with his 2019 buyout, he still would be owed $28.5 million. But he is a lefty with tons of playoff experience.

5. Blue Jays

They have the majors’ worst record and oldest roster, not a good combo when you also lack upper-level minor league difference-makers. Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki are expensive declining pieces. Would they ever consider dealing Josh Donaldson (a free agent after 2018) to recoup some of the elite prospect base surrendered for him, Tulowitzki and David Price? Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano are both free agents after the season, and J.A. Happ after next season, so all could become available.

How Yankees’ Jordan Montgomery seized quality Andy Pettitte time — April 17, 2017

How Yankees’ Jordan Montgomery seized quality Andy Pettitte time

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Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery, left, and retired pitcher Andy Pettitte.

by Brendan Kuty

NEW YORK — Andy Pettitte was back in the Yankees‘ dugout March 7 to watch his old friend, CC Sabathia, pitch in a spring training game. A seat was open next to the Core Four member.

Jordan Montgomery wasn’t going to let it stay that way.

Montgomery, set to make his second career big-league start Monday against the White Sox at home, plopped into the spot and spent three innings talking baseball with Pettitte. It was an experience the 6-foot-6 lefty will never forget.

“It was so cool,” the 24-year-old said Sunday.

Montgomery said he actually didn’t watch much baseball growing up. But when he did, he liked guys like Jon Lester and Pettitte — tall southpaws who had plenty of success. They built at least part of their lengthy resumes attacking right-handed hitters inside, something in which Montgomery takes great pride.

So, you could guess what Montgomery talked to Pettitte about.

“I was just picking his brain,” the South Carolina native said. “Just about how he pitched, how he went about his business.

“He had so much success over such a long time with the Yankees. So I was just trying to learn as much as I could. He’s one of the legendary Yankees. I wanted to learn.”

Montgomery said he found Pettitte approachable and welcoming.

“I had heard a lot about him, how good of a guy he was,” the young pitcher said. “That took the pressure off.”

In Montgomery’s first start after being named the Yankees’ fifth starter, he impressed manager Joe Girardi. Montgomery pitched just 4 1/3 innings, but he struck out seven and the Yankees snatched an 8-4 victory.

Girardi said he knew how Montgomery could improve this time around, however.

“I think fastball command needs to improve for him,” Girardi said. “But I’m not surprised it wasn’t great considering it was his first day he ever pitched in the big leagues. I think his slider will be better. I think that’s a big pitch for him.”

Girardi said it was tough for him to come up with a comparison for Montgomery, who uses an awkward straight-over-the-top arm slot to deceive hitters. Girardi offered up Chuck Finley, who was also 6-foot-6. Finley pitched 17 seasons in the bigs.

When asked if Montgomery reminded him of Pettitte at all, Girard wasn’t totally convinced.

“His stuff is kind of similar,” Girardi said of Montgomery. “Andy used his cutter more. He’s more of a slider and changeup guy.”

Then the manager paused.

“I hope he acts just like him,” Girardi said.

Jordan Montgomery on journey to majors and why he’s called ‘Gumby’ — April 16, 2017

Jordan Montgomery on journey to majors and why he’s called ‘Gumby’

By Steve Serby

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Rookie Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery took aim at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: What makes you believe that you belong?
A: When you’re striking out [Evan] Longoria — he’s such a great player … you don’t strike him out and not belong, is what I’ve been telling myself. Everyone’s saying like, you can get here, and then when you stick, you stick because you know you belong and that’s when you keep working. [Michael] Pineda was telling me … you can’t be content with getting here. When you get here and you stop working someone else is gonna take your spot, because they’re down there working. I’m gonna keep trying to get better every outing.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
A: Probably people telling me I’m not good enough. Coming out of high school, they had all these diamond prospects blah blah blah blah blah, rankings. … I was like fourth best lefty out of South Carolina, something like that. But I was tabbed to be a lefty specialist at [the University of] South Carolina. I knew I was better than that, didn’t let it get to me, and my brothers were huge for me, telling me not to let it get in my head, to just keep working, and prove me wrong. … I’m in the big leagues now (smile).

Q: Do you still carry that chip on your shoulder?
A: I still pitch like I do. I know what I am, and I know I’m good enough. I know I work hard enough and all that goes with it. But I guess you say kind of I do.

Q: What is you mound mentality?
A: Just try and be as aggressive as I can. Be in attack mode the whole time I’m out there, and just go after the hitters, not try and nibble, but just trust my work, trust my preparation and if I do it right the ball’s gonna go where it’s supposed to. If you’re touchy-feels with it, the wheels are gonna come off quick.

Q: Why does manager Joe Girardi uses the word “deception” when talking about you?
A: I’m over the top. That’s rare, I guess. I hide the ball. I spin the ball pretty well, four-seam. … I guess those are the three things I have going for me.

Q: If you could pick the brain of one pitcher in history, who would you pick?
A: I don’t know. … I got to talk to Andy Pettitte a good bit during spring training. That was one of my guys growing up. I was a huge basketball fan growing up.

Q: You’re 6-foot-6. Did you think about an NBA career?
A: No (laugh). I was a fat white kid that could only shoot when I played in eighth grade.

Q: You were fat?
A: I was a 13-year-old kid, hadn’t hit a growth spurt. Grew 6 inches in my eighth grade summer, went into high school 6-1. So, it spread out after that.

Q: What was that like adapting to that growth spurt?
A: Got a lot of the new clothes. Still wore hand-me-downs, but they didn’t fit quite as well.

Q: Hand-me-downs?
A: I have two older brothers, so I wore their old clothes, their old polos. We all ended up wearing the same size, so I would bun off them, wear their same shirts.

Q: Who is one hitter in history you would have liked to face?
A: David Ortiz, probably. That was one guy I really wanted to come up and face last year. But I missed him by a year (smile).

Q: What is “Gumby”?
A: (Laugh) That was my nickname in college.

Q: Why?
A: I was so long, kind of uncoordinated … showed up first day of summer practice, and one of the fifth-year seniors turned around, asked me what my name is: “I’m gonna call you Gumby from now on,” and it stuck. I hated it at first, but lately everyone calls me it. Just kind of learned to go with it.

Q: What did you know about Yankees’ tradition when you were drafted?
A: One of my good friends was drafted by then the year before, Tyler Webb. I played with him for two years at school. He told me what to pack, what to expect, all the rules.

Q: All the rules?
A: Pants up, shaved, no chains …

Q: Did you have to shave?
A: Yeah. Had a beard in college. I shave bullpen days so I can have a little scruff on the mound.

Q: Why would you want to have a little scruff on the mound?
A: Just got a real bad baby face. I want to have just enough to where I can get by with it. That’s another thing Pettitte did — he would only shave the days after he pitched, so he would have a little bit on the mound, so kind of got that from him.

Q: What is it like living in a hotel?
A: I like living in hotels. … The beds are nice … They’re always made. … HBO, get to watch “Game of Thrones.” I like watching movies. I have my iPad. If nothing’s good on TV, I’ll just watch Netflix or something.

Q: Do you take the subway to the Stadium?
A: I’m starting to figure it out.

Q: What train is that?
A: It’s the 6 train then you get off after one and then you the 4 train the rest of the way.

Q: Have you been recognized at all?
A: No (laugh), I don’t think I’m gonna get recognized either.

Q: Why do you say that?
A: They said Andrew Miller took the subway every day and he never got recognized. … I don’t think I will.

Q: Do you hope you won’t?
A: I mean, it doesn’t matter. As long as they’re nice (smile). If I’m throwing well and they want to say, “Good job,” go ahead.

Q: What were your first impressions when you saw Yankee Stadium when you got a tour one off day with the Staten Island Yankees?
A: I gotta get here quick (smile). I remember walking in through the tunnel and … being in awe.

Q: Any favorite New York City things yet?
A: I still haven’t really explored yet. We went to this one place when I came here for the first time, and it was awesome … Serendipity’s, some dessert place.

Q: Did you have the frozen hot chocolate?
A: I can’t remember what I had, some big ice cream sundae. I gotta stay away from that. I’ll treat myself once a month or something.

Q: Your Twitter feed: “There’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die.”
A: It’s from “Sandlot.” … You don’t want to get content with what you’re doing, just keep getting better.

Q: You retweeted a Derek Jeter quote: “If you’re going to play, you’re out to win. Baseball, board games, playing ‘Jeopardy,’ I hate to lose.”
A: I would like to think of myself as a winner. I grew up a competitor. If I was playing “FIFA” with my brothers, I wanted to win. If I didn’t, I was gonna be [ticked]. If we were playing 21 in the backyard, if I don’t win, then we’re playing again until I win.

Q: What drives you?
A: I guess the big three is faith, family and friends. I know what I’m here for, I’m just trying to give off the right influence, be a good role model to any kids in South Carolina, and try and do things the right way.

Q: How much fun was the 2012 College World Series — though you lost to Arizona in the Finals?
A: I was only a freshman then, so I was kind of just excited to be there. We win one more game, I’m getting the ball in that championship game, so that [would’ve] been really cool. Threw that elimination game against Arkansas to get us to the championship series. It was huge for me to get in front of a lot of people, and kind of realize you’re just playing baseball in front of people. They’re just watching you, so you can’t really do anything about them watching.

Q: What was it like watching the Gamecocks South Carolina make it to the NCAA Final Four?
A: It was cool. Coach [Frank] Martin, he’s a great coach. He’s been molding that program for five years now, and it’s finally where he wants to be.

Q: Do you know former Yankee Bobby Richardson?
A: He’s from Sumter [S.C.]. I just talked to him before I came to spring training. We have this restaurant in Sumter called Guinyard Diner. It’s just got all kinds of Bobby Richardson memorabilia in it. More times than not you’re gonna see him in there eating.

Q: Did he give you any advice?
A: He told me, “You’re not gonna get any more of a class act than the Yankees.”

Q: Superstitions?
A: Yeah. A lot. My grandma was very superstitious growing up. A black cat crosses the road when you’re driving, you gotta put an “X” up on the top left of your windshield. … Someone’s passing you the salt at the dinner table, they gotta put it down before you can grab it. You spill salt, throw it over your shoulder. … You can’t walk under ladders. …I’ve got a routine, but it’s too in-depth. I can’t say that and give it away.

Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?
A: Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Steph Curry, Splash Bros. [Curry and Klay Thompson].

Q: Boyhood idols?
A: Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones.

Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski].

Q: Why was Kobe your favorite?
A: So mentally strong. Probably one of the most competitive people in the world, I would say. He played with a broken finger … stuff like that. Just makes him stick out.

Q: Do you consider yourself mentally strong?
A: Yes, I do.

Q: How does that manifest itself on the mound?
A: Like getting out of jams, not giving in to hitters, not letting errors or anything get in my head or showing any kind of emotion on the mound. In college, our pitching coach was kind of stoic, until he got to know you. He always said, “You want to look the same no matter what’s happening, if you’re throwing a perfect game or if you’re giving up 20 in an inning, you don’t want to show a kink in your armor.”

Q: Your fascination with Waffle House?
A: (Smile) You know what you’re gonna get and it’s gonna be good every time.

Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Bull Durham.”

Q: Favorite actor?
A: Leo [Leonardo DiCaprio].

Q: Favorite actress?
A: Blake Lively.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: Justin Timberlake.

Q: Favorite meal?
A: My mom makes this chicken and rice.