Yankees’ official impressed “big time” with Happ and Montgomery before spring training ended

Andres Chavez
New York Yankees, J.A. Happ
Jun 18, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher J.A. Happ (34) pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees‘ spring training was going smoothly when MLB had to halt things because of concerns about the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The team’s stars were tuning up for a shot at the World Series championship in the fall, and everything was going according to the plan.

COVID-19 made MLB suspend the season indefinitely, and other leagues took a similar route. Right now, MLB and the players’ association are examining scenarios for baseball to return in the next few weeks, but there are many challenges.

For the Yankees’ vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring, two starting pitchers were standing above the rest: J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery. Since Paxton had back surgery in February and Luis Severino underwent Tommy John and the team announced he would miss the season, the Yankees needed the pair of lefties to come through, and they were on the verge of doing it if spring performance is any indication.

Not that spring training stats need to be taken too seriously, but both Happ and Montgomery were looking very sharp.

“Those two stood out big-time for me,” Naehring told the YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits this week, cited by NJ.com.

Yankees’ lefties were dealing

Happ was 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in four starts when the action was halted. He had accumulated 16 strikeouts against only one base on balls in 13 innings.

Happ struggled in 2019, when he posted an ugly 4.91 and the worst HR/9 mark in the major leagues. However, his final six starts (2-0, 2-23 ERA) provided a glimpse of hope.

“Thought he picked up where he left off the last six or seven weeks of last season,” Naehring said. “Thought he came in with what looked to be great laser focus, crisp stuff. Great to see.”

Montgomery returned from Tommy John surgery last year to pitch a few innings. In 2020’s abbreviated spring training, he threw 11 frames of a 4.09 ERA, with 16 Ks to his name.

“Montgomery, I thought, threw the ball very well,” the VP said. “The command. The changeup. So, looking at the impact of on the (26-man roster), those stood out big-time for me.”