ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For a second straight outing, Jordan Montgomery blanked one of the better teams in the AL East.
The left-hander tossed five scoreless innings in the Yankees’ 4-3 win over the Rays on Tuesday night, one start after a 5 ²/₃ scoreless inning outing in Boston.
Montgomery attributed his recent success with “trying to think less.”
“When I’m out there aggressive and competing, I feel I’m one of the better pitchers in the league,’’ he said. “Then my mind gets in the way and I try to do too much.”
That wasn’t the case at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, although Montgomery had to work hard, throwing 51 pitches in the first two innings and 102 through five.
He has allowed three or fewer runs in seven straight starts, even as the Yankees have struggled to score behind him.
“Every five days, I expect to win,’’ Montgomery said.
Clint Frazier spent Monday and Tuesday undergoing a battery of neurological tests, as the Yankees try to determine what’s wrong with the left fielder, who has been on the injured list since July 2.
Manager Aaron Boone said the team hopes to know more Wednesday. Boone added the issue “doesn’t seem to be” related to the concussion symptoms that have plagued Frazier in the past.
When Frazier first went on the IL, the Yankees said it was due to vertigo, which has since been ruled out. A vision issue still hasn’t been ruled out, according to Boone.
Estevan Florial, who showed flashes of good play, was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday.
Clay Holmes was available out of the bullpen Tuesday, but did not pitch. The right-hander was acquired Monday in a trade with the Pirates, in exchange for minor league infielders Hoy Jun Park and Diego Castillo.
“We’re excited to get him. We feel he already is very tough on righties and feel he has the stuff to go to another place,” Boone said of the 28-year-old.
While Holmes has been effective against righty hitters, his overall numbers are underwhelming.
“He’s a lot better than his ERA [4.93] would suggest,’’ Boone said of Holmes. “He has a really good arm and gives us a really interesting look.”
Boone called Holmes a “righty assassin” and said they “feel there’s room in there for him to grow into a really good reliever in this game.’’
Among the reasons the Yankees felt the need to get bullpen help is the absence of right-hander Michael King, who has been out with a middle-finger contusion suffered while lifting weights, and was transferred to the 60-day IL. Boone said King saw a hand specialist Tuesday, still has another week of not throwing and could begin a throwing program next week.
Right-hander Albert Abreu was optioned to Triple-A.
Kyle Higashioka returned off the COVID-19 IL Tuesday and will likely catch Gerrit Cole on Thursday, Boone said. The manager pointed to Thursday being a day game after a night game and a way to get Gary Sanchez a day off. Wednesday’s scheduled starter, Nestor Cortes Jr., said he thought he could throw 50-60 pitches in what will be his second appearance, and first start, since coming back from the COVID-19 IL.
Luis Severino threw another bullpen session Tuesday, with the Yankees still weighing his next step. Severino could throw another live batting practice or begin a rehab assignment in the minors. The team also has to determine how much to build Severino back up, whether to bring him up once he gets to 50-60 pitches or wait until he’s at or near starter’s endurance.
Yoendrys Gomez, a 21-year-old right-hander, became the latest Low-A Tampa player to be placed on the COVID-19 IL. Gomez is on the 40-man roster.
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