Home News Yankees’ opener plan works perfectly with Jhony Brito gem

Yankees’ opener plan works perfectly with Jhony Brito gem

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TORONTO — Using an opener has not always worked in the Yankees’ favor, but on Monday, it went even better than they could have hoped. 

The Yankees called on reliever Jimmy Cordero to start the game as the opener before he passed the baton to starter-turned-bulk reliever Jhony Brito, who turned in his best outing of late in the Yankees’ 7-4 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. 

Cordero tossed two perfect innings against the right-handed heavy top of the Blue Jays’ lineup and then Brito mostly cruised before running into trouble in the eighth, but the combination was a winning one for the Yankees. 

“It was a good experience for me, the first time as an opener,” Cordero said. “I 100 percent would do it again.” 

The Yankees’ strategy was in large part due to Brito’s struggles against right-handed hitters, with the Blue Jays’ lineup stacked at the top with three difficult right-handed bats in George Springer, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

This season, Cordero had held righties to a slash line of .171/.256/.257 while righties had beaten up Brito for a slash line of .292/.347/.631. 

Jhony Brito pitches during the Yankees’ win over the Blue Jays on May 15.
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Jimmy Cordero pitches during the Yankees' win over the Blue Jays on May 15.
Jimmy Cordero pitches during the Yankees’ win over the Blue Jays on May 15.

But after coming on in relief on Monday, Brito more than held his own against the Blue Jays lineup, tossing five shutout innings on three hits before he gave up four runs — only two earned because of a Gleyber Torres error — in the eighth inning. 

“He gave us just what we needed,” manager Aaron Boone said, noting the effectiveness of Brito’s curveball as a third pitch to go with his sinker and changeup. 

Boone was ejected in the eighth inning after arguing a low called strike on Aaron Judge with home plate umpire Clint Vondrak, who both dugouts had issues with throughout the night.

Boone got his money’s worth after being tossed, but felt an ejection was not warranted. 

“I felt like the other side berated him pretty good at one point,” Boone said. “I’ve got some experience getting thrown out and tonight didn’t feel like it got to that level.” 

Harrison Bader and DJ LeMahieu were out of the starting lineup Monday, but Boone said that both were fine physically.

He said he wanted to be mindful of their workloads during a stretch of 33 games in 34 days with both coming back from injuries — a toe/foot issue that cost LeMahieu the end of last season and a strained oblique that cost Bader the first month of this season. 

Boone factored in the turf (for Bader) and the Blue Jays starting right-hander Alek Manoah as factors in Monday being the right day to have both hitters out of the lineup. 

In Bader’s spot, Aaron Hicks started in center field, his first appearance since exiting Tuesday’s game with a tight hip. 

Carlos Rodon (back) threw again on Monday for a third straight day after receiving cortisone-like injections last Tuesday.

Boone said Rodon has another round of injections scheduled for midweek — the appointment was made before he got the first set — but it was yet to be determined whether the left-hander would need them. 

“So far, it’s gone I think according to plan,” Boone said. 

Tommy Kahnle (biceps tendinitis) is set to start a rehab assignment on Thursday with Low-A Tampa, the first of at least four outings before he could rejoin the Yankees. Kahnle is on the 60-day IL, so he is not eligible to be activated until near the end of May.

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