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Yankees Postgame Notebook: Montgomery, Austin impress in loss to Astros

TAMPA - Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before Friday night's game that when Jordan Montgomery took the mound against the Astros, he would be looking to see if Montgomery had "command of those secondary pitches, especially in even counts or when he's behind."

Mission accomplished for Montgomery, who allowed two runs on two solo homers over four innings, but also struck out four and did not allow a walk.

"That was better; I felt comfortable out there, threw a lot of strikes, and got three or four swing-and-misses on my changeup. Good progression, I guess," Montgomery said. "My stuff was moving, and everything was doing what I wanted it to do, so I was happy with it. Fastballs could've been a little more consistent in the zone, but I was close."

"I thought that was the best he's looked to me, especially after struggling the last couple outings," Boone added. "Tonight, I thought the stuff was much crisper, and I thought he had a good breaking ball and changeup. He looked considerably better to me, stuff-wise and command-wise, tonight."

As for the two homers? Well, as with other pitchers earlier this week, both the starter and the skipper were able to shrug them off as part of the process.

"The two home runs were a heater up and in, and a curveball," Montgomery said. "The first one didn't sound like a homer off the bat, I thought it was a pop fly but it kept going. The second one I hung a little bit, and I think (Tyler White) was sitting curve by the way he wasn't swinging at the curves in the dirt."

"Probably not a great choice on the fastball homer," the skipper added, "but I thought White hit a decent pitch actually. Still, a big step forward."

The other news of the night, on a night where the Yankees had just three hits and five baserunners, was Neil Walker making his Yankees debut. He played four innings at first base, making three putouts, and he flew out and was hit by a pitch in his two plate appearances.

"I didn't get any ground balls, but the right side of the infield feels pretty comfortable to me, and it was good to get some action," Walker said. "Getting some of these at-bats here and standing in on bullpens has helped, but swinging the bat is the most important thing, so that's where you get your timing."

"The goal was to get a couple at-bats and start to build his innings up," Boone added, "and I thought he looked comfortable at the plate already, so a step along the way."

Walker will play second base on Sunday, Boone said, and will likely be extended further into the game, but the skipper is happy with where he sees Walker at so far physically.

"We'll see how he comes out of it again tomorrow, but he's been bouncing back well every day," Boone said. "Just trying to build him up so he can be ready at the start, but a good first start for him."

A few more notes and quotes from a Friday night at The Boss:

-Lance McCullers, who flummoxed the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, was dominant again tonight, and even Boone had to tip his cap: "He was really good tonight, and he got up to 97 MPH with the fastball. It's always nice to see someone you know you might come across, but he was pretty good, and they some kind of shut us down tonight."

-One of the Yankees' three hits was Tyler Austin's hard single in the seventh, and Boone has been impressed with Austin: "A lot of hard contact. That single tonight was a rocket. He's done a good job, and done everything he's needed to do. I think the at-bat quality is what has stood out most; he's done a great job of controlling the strike zone, and the power and his ability to drive the ball, especially the other way, has been evident. He's been really good the entire spring. I know he's battled a lot of different things injury-wise, so it's good to see him healthy and having a big spring."

-Is there a path for Austin to make the team, though? Boone's take: "It could be tough, but you never know; he's still here, and he's showing that he can really hit."

-Montgomery is locked in as the fifth starter, a stark difference from where he was as a dark horse rotation candidate last year, but his mentality is the same this spring: "I'm a little more comfortable, but the work ethic is going to be the same. I'm still trying to fine tune things as much as I can; maybe I can work on a little more, but I'm still just trying to get outs, get in the zone on the mound, and be as ready as I can for my first start."

-Aaron Judge will play left field in an A-ball game at the Yankees minor-league complex Saturday, but is unlikely to see any time at the plate: "He did a lot of work on the machine stuff today, on the high velocity and breaking balls, so I think we're going to hold him out from at-bats in the game tomorrow."

-Last word goes to Walker, talking about his spring progression: "I think I'm on a semi-normal schedule now. It's good to know that I have another week's worth of work left before the season starts, but I feel like I'm in a good place. I'm very happy with where I am right now, so it's a matter of continuing to see a lot of pitches and have good at-bats, and hopefully find some barrels here later on."

TAMPA - Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before Friday night's game that when Jordan Montgomery took the mound against the Astros, he would be looking to see if Montgomery had "command of those secondary pitches, especially in even counts or when he's behind."

Mission accomplished for Montgomery, who allowed two runs on two solo homers over four innings, but also struck out four and did not allow a walk.

"That was better; I felt comfortable out there, threw a lot of strikes, and got three or four swing-and-misses on my changeup. Good progression, I guess," Montgomery said. "My stuff was moving, and everything was doing what I wanted it to do, so I was happy with it. Fastballs could've been a little more consistent in the zone, but I was close."

"I thought that was the best he's looked to me, especially after struggling the last couple outings," Boone added. "Tonight, I thought the stuff was much crisper, and I thought he had a good breaking ball and changeup. He looked considerably better to me, stuff-wise and command-wise, tonight."

As for the two homers? Well, as with other pitchers earlier this week, both the starter and the skipper were able to shrug them off as part of the process.

"The two home runs were a heater up and in, and a curveball," Montgomery said. "The first one didn't sound like a homer off the bat, I thought it was a pop fly but it kept going. The second one I hung a little bit, and I think (Tyler White) was sitting curve by the way he wasn't swinging at the curves in the dirt."

"Probably not a great choice on the fastball homer," the skipper added, "but I thought White hit a decent pitch actually. Still, a big step forward."

The other news of the night, on a night where the Yankees had just three hits and five baserunners, was Neil Walker making his Yankees debut. He played four innings at first base, making three putouts, and he flew out and was hit by a pitch in his two plate appearances.

"I didn't get any ground balls, but the right side of the infield feels pretty comfortable to me, and it was good to get some action," Walker said. "Getting some of these at-bats here and standing in on bullpens has helped, but swinging the bat is the most important thing, so that's where you get your timing."

"The goal was to get a couple at-bats and start to build his innings up," Boone added, "and I thought he looked comfortable at the plate already, so a step along the way."

Walker will play second base on Sunday, Boone said, and will likely be extended further into the game, but the skipper is happy with where he sees Walker at so far physically.

"We'll see how he comes out of it again tomorrow, but he's been bouncing back well every day," Boone said. "Just trying to build him up so he can be ready at the start, but a good first start for him."

A few more notes and quotes from a Friday night at The Boss:

-Lance McCullers, who flummoxed the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, was dominant again tonight, and even Boone had to tip his cap: "He was really good tonight, and he got up to 97 MPH with the fastball. It's always nice to see someone you know you might come across, but he was pretty good, and they some kind of shut us down tonight."

-One of the Yankees' three hits was Tyler Austin's hard single in the seventh, and Boone has been impressed with Austin: "A lot of hard contact. That single tonight was a rocket. He's done a good job, and done everything he's needed to do. I think the at-bat quality is what has stood out most; he's done a great job of controlling the strike zone, and the power and his ability to drive the ball, especially the other way, has been evident. He's been really good the entire spring. I know he's battled a lot of different things injury-wise, so it's good to see him healthy and having a big spring."

-Is there a path for Austin to make the team, though? Boone's take: "It could be tough, but you never know; he's still here, and he's showing that he can really hit."

-Montgomery is locked in as the fifth starter, a stark difference from where he was as a dark horse rotation candidate last year, but his mentality is the same this spring: "I'm a little more comfortable, but the work ethic is going to be the same. I'm still trying to fine tune things as much as I can; maybe I can work on a little more, but I'm still just trying to get outs, get in the zone on the mound, and be as ready as I can for my first start."

-Aaron Judge will play left field in an A-ball game at the Yankees minor-league complex Saturday, but is unlikely to see any time at the plate: "He did a lot of work on the machine stuff today, on the high velocity and breaking balls, so I think we're going to hold him out from at-bats in the game tomorrow."

-Last word goes to Walker, talking about his spring progression: "I think I'm on a semi-normal schedule now. It's good to know that I have another week's worth of work left before the season starts, but I feel like I'm in a good place. I'm very happy with where I am right now, so it's a matter of continuing to see a lot of pitches and have good at-bats, and hopefully find some barrels here later on."