Justin Wilson's Spring Debut Is Lone Blemish On Spotless Performance From Yankees' Bullpen

Justin Wilson Struggles In Otherwise Perfect Night From Yankees' Bullpen
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TAMPA — You couldn't have scripted it any better. 

Yankees left-hander Zack Britton goes down with an injury and is poised to miss several months after left elbow surgery. So, how does the bullpen respond? With six spotless innings of relief on Wednesday night. 

That would've been the case for New York had Justin Wilson's spring training debut not gone awry.

The left-hander lasted only a third of an inning against the Pirates, allowing two home runs—including a grand slam from Pittsburgh's Brian Goodwin—before Yankees manager Aaron Boone was forced to pull the plug. 

Despite the results not going as planned for Wilson, Boone was pleased with the way the southpaw threw the ball in his first taste of in-game action this spring.

"I thought stuff wise he was fine," Boone said. "I thought it was coming out well, he's throwing strikes, I think just missing in some danger zones. And to their credit, they hit him when they were in there."

Wilson surrendered a solo shot to right fielder Jared Oliva on a cutter down the middle. The grand slam off the bat of Goodwin came on a four-seam fastball in a similar location, right down the heart of the plate.

Nonetheless, for a first outing of the spring, Boone had nothing but positive takeaways.

"I thought it was crispy," Boone explained. "First time out, I thought it was coming out how it should. Pounding the strike zone for the most part. Not the result you want, but I was fine with how he threw the ball."

Other than Wilson, every pitcher that projects to pitch in the bullpen this season that threw on Wednesday night was magnificent. 

Closer Aroldis Chapman was perfect in his first inning of the spring, striking out two. Right-hander Darren O'Day was brilliant, breezing through his first frame in pinstripes.

Chapman's outing featured his new pitch, a splitter, that he's been working on dating back to last season.

"Feeling really really good with it," Chapman said through the Yankees' interpreter. "I think I only used it twice tonight. One was for a strike the other one was low in the zone, but overall I think it was good movement and feeling good with it."

After Wilson ran into trouble—and once lefty Trevor Lane cleaned up the final two outs of the sixth—both right-handers Chad Green and Michael King pitched scoreless frames of their own. 

Green looked like he was in midseason form, striking out the side on 13 pitches. King was the only hurler of this bunch that allowed a base runner, but he was also able to keep the Pirates off the board. He twirled two scoreless frames, closing out the 6-5 win. 

Wednesday was another look at just how deep New York's bullpen is, a unit that features several different speeds, angles and looks in the back end. Even with Britton set to miss an extended period of time to start the regular season, Boone adores the versatility at his disposal in the late innings.

"At some point when we get Britton back to have that heavy, heavy sinker and then Chappie with the fastball, slider and now split combo, to O'Day from that angle," Boone said. "Then with Greenie and Wilson being more fastball-characteristic guys that can pitch at the top of the zone. I do like the versatility and the number of looks that we can give you and hopefully it plays out that those variances as a club over time."

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