TAMPA — Left-hander Justin Wilson will start the regular season on the Yankees' injured list, general manager Brian Cashman revealed on Monday afternoon.
Wilson exited a spring training game early exactly one week ago, needing an MRI after experiencing left shoulder tightness. The MRI came back with "nothing actionable" and Wilson has since resumed his throwing program, but he won't be ready in time for Thursday's opener.
"It's one of those circumstances because he's a pitcher, we mapped out properly now get him his bullpens, then his live sessions and it would bleed into the start of our season," Cashman explained. "Physically he feels like he could go and doesn't want to be on the IL, but in terms of making sure that we get him built up properly ... we're not gonna have opening day dictate if he's got to be ready."
Cashman clarified that Wilson won't officially be placed on the injured list until the 26-man roster is due on opening day.
Wilson said on Sunday that he "felt normal" throwing for the first time, tossing out to 90 feet. The plan was to get back onto a mound on Monday. Cashman confirmed the left-hander did throw a bullpen, a session that went well.
"We had a lot of difficult conversations to make sure that we handle his return to play protocols properly and make sure he checks all the throwing boxes along the way which includes several bullpen sessions and a couple live batting practice sessions prior to getting the all-clear," Cashman said. "He's certainly going in the right direction, he threw a bullpen today, feels good but unfortunately he's got a few more hurdles to clear for us to feel comfortable releasing them back into the wild."
The Yankees' GM also revealed that both utility man Tyler Wade and right-hander Michael King made the big-league roster. That leaves one final spot to choose who will replace Wilson in the 'pen at the start of the season.
As for which pitcher that could be, Yankees manager Aaron Boone declined to list any specific names that are in the running for the spot. After the type of performance non-roster invitee Lucas Luetge has had this spring, it's fair to assume he's in the running (if not the top choice for the job).
Luetge certainly makes sense. As a lefty, he can fill in directly for Wilson as the other southpaw in the 'pen with Zack Britton sidelined after elbow surgery. That said, Luetge isn't on the 40-man roster, so the Yankees would need to make space for him if he were to make the club on opening day.
With Wilson not expected to miss a significant period of time, perhaps the Yankees will choose a prospect like Albert Abreu or Brooks Kriske—a pitcher with some big-league experience after last season—to briefly fill that final bullpen spot. Both those right-handers were optioned to Triple-A last week by the team.
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