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In the Yankees’ first spring training game on Sunday – a 6-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays – Michael King got the start to begin his bid for a roster spot, whether that be the fifth rotation slot or a role in the bullpen.
But this start wasn’t really a step in the right direction.
It’s always tough to go out and kick things off in what’s expected to be a heated competition, though King found himself facing a tough Blue Jays lineup doing just that. His eventual stat line – three earned runs on three hits, two hit batters, two walks and one strikeout – isn’t how he wanted his 39-pitch outing to go.
King spoke to the media following his start to explain what exactly went wrong on the bump.
“I thought my sinker was too elevated,” he said. “Kinda realized that with the first three batters were flyballs, and obviously as a sinkerballer, I want the ground balls. A threw a couple good changeups and then I tried to kinda really get that arm-side run on a couple. That’s like the one that hit [Vladimir Guerrero Jr.] was a changeup. I really tried to over-pronate it and just pushed it right at him. And then even [Bo] Bichette, when I walked him into a 3-2 count, it was supposed to be a changeup I tried to make it better than it needed to be.
“I also kinda got away from what my gameplan was. I really wanted to throw a lot of off-speed pitches because last year was predominantly fastball and I wanted to see how the off-speed pitches were working. In that first inning, I threw more fastballs than I wanted to, so I talked to Chirinos about mixing more in.”
King ended saying that he believed the second inning felt better than the first, which is good to hear.
However, King knows full well that these outings are carefully calculated and broken down by the Yankees’ staff, especially when there’s tons of depth to sift through. Being able to execute in just one or two innings of work is crucial to make the 26-man when camp breaks.
So King needs some redemption next time Aaron Boone calls for him to get the ball. And for pitchers like Deivi Garcia, Nick Nelson and others battling for the same role King wants, let this serve as a small lesson that every rep counts here.
Yes, it's the first game of the year. But there's only a handful of outings to go around over the next month before Opening Day. Room for mistakes is minimal in this intense environment that will surely have all eyes watching throughout March.
The Yankees have depth, which is a good problem. But for the pitchers themselves, hiccups on the mound could turn into a bad problem if they want to make the club.