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Yankees 2, Tigers 5: Real pitchers throw curves

Spring training ends with a Yankee loss.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps more important than the on-field play today were the updates provided midgame by Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone. They revealed that Aaron Judge has been feeling sick for a couple of days and had to go through COVID-19 protocols, but that both expect Judge to be in the lineup on Opening Day. Justin Wilson was also moved to the injured list, leaving one more open slot in the Yankee bullpen ahead of real baseball beginning.

There was a spring training game today, however, but if you spent the afternoon focused on Judge speculation, you didn’t miss much. The Yankee offense outside of Giancarlo Stanton was pretty quiet, Domingo Germán surrendered his first runs of the exhibition season, and a couple big homers from the Tigers led to a 5-2 Yankee loss.

Germán and Chad Green both worked their curveballs heavily in their outings, throwing a combined 33.3 percent breaking balls in 4.2 IP. Both pitchers gave up home runs on fastballs, and notched eight whiffs on 29 combined curves. It’s been particularly interesting to hone in on Green’s breaking ball this spring, as he’s used it much more in the zone, to get over and get strikes earlier in counts.

Last year, for example, Green only threw 35 percent of his curves in the zone, whereas in his last two spring appearances, that rate is all the way up to 50 percent. Germán, of course, uses his curveball in a similar fashion, and the primary difference in appearance between the two pitchers is Green’s much better fastball. Maybe Green has just been messing around all spring, but it would make sense that he works more curveballs in the zone, as effective location within the strike zone makes his potent fastball even better. That will be something to watch for once the real games begin.

Thairo Estrada homered for the second straight day, while Stanton reached base twice to finish the season with an OPS north of .900. The Yankee offense has been pretty lackluster all spring, and while there are one or two things that catch my eye and make me a little wary — most specifically, that DJ LeMahieu has an average launch angle in the negatives — this lineup is going to produce in the regular season as long as guys are healthy. Getting the news that Judge is OK is the most important takeaway from the game.

Spring training is over! The next time we see the Yankees play baseball, they’ll be in pinstripes at Yankee Stadium. That game comes Thursday at 1:05 pm, with Gerrit Cole on the mound.

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