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Yankees pitching depth faces big test with 23 games over 22 days in May

One remarkable feature about the Yankees’ first few weeks of the regular season was their ability to use just five starting pitchers and keep them on schedule throughout the first month of the season. That plan was upended when consecutive rainouts pushed them into a scenario in which they’ll play 23 games in 22 days.

New York’s next off day will be Memorial Day — already a strange quirk of the season schedule, now a saving grace for them at the end of what will be a grueling stretch throughout the month of May.

The Yankees rearranged their pitching schedule due to Sunday’s doubleheader, which the Yankees split with the Rangers. After Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery pitched on Sunday, with Cole going on unexpected extra rest, Nestor Cortes Jr. will pitch Monday’s day game against the Rangers. Luis Severino was pushed to Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jays, with Jameson Taillon scheduled to pitch Thursday’s afternoon game against Toronto.

The changes to the schedule gave the Yankees an opportunity to find a bit of additional rest for Luis Severino, who has started his season well after coming off multiple years of various injuries.

“I’m just picking a spot where, obviously with Sevy coming off (injuries), we feel like he was the guy to bump there,” manager Aaron Boone said Saturday. “That puts us in line with a couple of righties against Toronto. Not a lot more than that, just where we can find spots with Sevy, we’ll try and have those kind of built-in ones every now and then.”

While the schedule shuffle created an opportunity for the Yankees to give Severino a few extra days of rest before his sixth start of the season, it also creates a situation in which they will need a spot start for Thursday’s game in Chicago.

The Yankees could theoretically push Michael King from the bullpen to a start for Thursday’s game, but Boone indicated the team is much more likely to call up a pitcher from the minor leagues to make an appearance. Right-hander Clarke Schmidt pitched at Triple A on Saturday, which would put him on schedule to make his next start on Thursday.

Outfielder Tim Locastro went on the injured list Sunday with a latissimus dorsi strain, which Boone said will likely keep him down for a few weeks. The Yankees recalled reliever Ron Marinaccio from Triple A to replace him on the active roster, and Boone said he anticipates the Yankees will stick with a short bench in favor of an extra pitcher for the next few weeks.

The Yankees used four relievers behind Cole and Montgomery during Sunday’s doubleheader: Jonathan Loaisiga and Clay Homes in Game 1, and King and Wandy Peralta in Game 2. Cole allowed one earned run over 6 1/3 innings and Montgomery allowed two earned runs after 6 innings and one batter in the 7th. After Monday’s day game, they’ll have a night game against the Blue Jays followed by a day game before they hit the road to face the White Sox and Orioles.

Pitching stability has been a strength of the Yankees’ season, along with their ability to stay healthy. Locastro’s placement on the IL is the first move they’ve made for a major-league player since the season began. The Yankees have used just 16 pitchers across 27 games this season, tied with the Cardinals, Marlins, and Rockies for the fewest in MLB entering Sunday. In contrast, the Tampa Bay Rays had used 24 pitchers in 28 days due to injuries, tied with the Diamondbacks for most in MLB.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Boone said about his pitching staff after the doubleheader. “Obviously Gerrit and Monty gave us deep outings, both pitching into the seventh inning. So we didn’t have to go to the well too hard or have one of those days where you’re likely to worry. The reality is we’re in the start of a grueling stretch and we’re gonna have to lean on different guys and get good performances and lean on our starters and we’re prepared to do that.”

notes

• Gleyber Torres got his second walk-off hit of the season to end Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader. It was his seventh career walk-off, which leads the majors since his debut in 2018.

• Batted balls were acting strangely on Sunday, seemingly due to the strong wind that was blowing throughout the long day. Add to that the strange and seemingly deadened behavior of the actual baseballs this season, and long fly balls were difficult to gauge.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward explained Torres’ walk-off home run to right field in Game 1 by noting the dimensions at Yankee Stadium: “That’s an easy out in 99 percent of ballparks,” Woodward said. “Little League ball park.”

“Both teams play in the same ballpark — it’s the same dimensions. I think I feel good to hit a walk-off homer in the Little League ballpark,” Torres said.

Woodward clarified after Game 2 that “it was more of a joke than anything,” and described Yankee Stadium as “one of the cathedrals in all of sports.”

The ever-reliable Twitter account “Would It Dong?” noted that Torres’ 369-foot home run would have been a home run in 26 of 30 ballparks. A home run Rangers catcher Mitch Garver hit off reliever Clay Holmes in Game 1 would have been a home run in just two ballparks, per Would It Dong. In Game 2, Torres hit a 395-foot flyout to deep left-center that Would It Dong noted would have been a home run in 24 other ballparks. A home run that center fielder Eli White hit off Jordan Montgomery traveled 342 feet to right field. You can probably guess what Would It Dong had to say about that one: It would have been a homer in two ballparks.

If you can’t trust a bot called “Would It Dong?” who can you trust in this world?

Yankee Stadium’s right-field porch is short. Sometimes it helps the home team, sometimes it hurts them. Woodward’s claim that Torres’ walk-off home run was a fluke of park dimensions was not backed up by data and the Rangers benefited from the porch later that day.

Asked about Woodward’s comments, Boone did not have much to say, other than that Woodward’s “math’s wrong — 99 percent is impossible.”

“There’s 30 parks,” Boone said. (According to an iPhone calculator, 29 divided by 30 is 96.6667 percent.)

• The Yankees and Rangers have a significant overlap of past and present players at this point. Former Ranger Joey Gallo appeared in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader; Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jose Trevino played in the second game. Right-handed pitcher Glenn Otto, sent to Texas in the Gallo trade, started the second game for the Rangers.

(Photo of Loaisiga: Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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