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Spring Training Players of the Day: Yankees pitching

LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 17: Masahiro Tanaka (19) of the Yankees delivers a pitch to the plate during the spring training game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers on March 17, 2017 at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

Spring training stats aren’t worth paying attention to, but spring training performance certainly is, on a day-to-day basis. Each day, we here at FanRag Sports will be singling out one player who had the best performance of the day, and what it might mean going forward.

Friday’s Players of the Day ‘winners’ are New York Yankees pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, Chasen Shreve and Jordan Montgomery, who combined to throw a nine-inning no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland. They also combined to strike out nine and walk two. It’s the fourth time the Tigers have been no-hit in spring training in their history, and Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told reporters after the game, “You don’t want to get no-hit, whether it’s spring training, the regular season, or whiffleball in the backyard.”

The Tigers, who were without both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez — who are playing the World Baseball Classic — still had a solid lineup that was shut down. Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, Nick Castellanos, Alex Avila and Omar Infante all played.

It looks like the Yankees had the luck of the Irish on their side — even though the Tigers were the ones donning green jerseys for St. Patrick’s Day.

Tanaka, who has been named the Yankees’ opening day starter, has had a strong spring. He struck out 6 batters on 63 pitches in 4.1 innings of work on Friday and his splitter, which has been impressive all spring, finished off four of his six strikeouts. Tanaka has only given up 3 hits and has struck out a total of 19 batters in 13.1 innings of spring work. He definitely looks ready for the regular season.

After Tanaka exited the game, reliever Chasen Shreve came in to get the last two outs of the fifth inning. Shreve, who was victimized by the long ball in 2016, has, once again, been victimized by the long ball this spring. Last season, Shreve gave up eight home runs in 33 innings with the Yankees—six at Yankee Stadium and two on the road. Coming into Friday’s game, he was 1-0 with 6.75 ERA in five Grapefruit League games. He had given up 5 hits, 4 runs (all earned), 2 walks and 2 home runs in 5.1 innings. Shreve struck out one batter and lowered his spring ERA to 6.00.

While most baseball pundits were counting on the race for the last two starting slots in the Yankees starting rotation to be between Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, Adam Warren, Luis Cessa and Chad Green, prospect Jordan Montgomery, who pitched the last four innings of Friday’s game, has come seemingly out of nowhere to give Girardi another possible option.

Montgomery, a non-roster invitee who was drafted out of South Carolina in 2014, was 14-5 with a 2.13 ERA in 25 starts (139.1 innings) in 2016; he struck out 134 batters while splitting time between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. MLB.com ranked him as the No. 13 Yankees prospect.

The 24-year-old lefty has made the Yankees ‘curious’ according to Girardi, who told reporters, “He’s got a good breaking ball, a good changeup and throws on a downward angle, which we like. He’s different than a lot of lefties in a sense. He threw the ball very well today. We’re curious about him.”

According to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com, Montgomery will get a start within the next week; he also reports that Girardi thinks Montgomery “has a better shot” at starting the year in the bullpen. Mike Mazzeo of the Daily News reports that Montgomery is happy with either role, as long as he’s wearing a Yankee uniform.

For the Yankees, the biggest questions coming into 2017 were about their pitching staff; on Friday afternoon, none of those questions mattered.

Numbers from Baseball-Reference and MiLB.com

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