NEW YORK — As players were being introduced prior to first pitch on Thursday, Lucas Luetge stood on the top step of the Yankees' dugout, looking around Yankee Stadium.
At one point, he waved toward a certain section of the stands, the pinstripes on his No. 63 jersey rippling in the wind.
Although the left-hander didn't come into the game out of the bullpen, an extra-inning loss to the Blue Jays on Opening Day, making New York's 26-man roster was a momentous accomplishment for a player that hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2015.
"By the end of the day after they told me [I made the team], I had a headache," Luetge said on Thursday morning. "My jaw was hurting from smiling. Everything I've been hoping for the last five or six years finally came true and you just feel that sense of joy again."
Luetge making the roster may be a feel-good story, but he earned his spot. The 34-year-old was spectacular this spring, striking out 18 and allowing only two runs in nine outings and 10.1 innings.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Thursday that he and New York's coaching staff know Luetge's spring training performance wasn't a fluke because this organization has been tracking him for multiple years, biding their time until they could bring him in.
Asked about the support he's received this spring from Yankees fans on social media, Luetge's smile returned. Spending the first four years of his big-league career with the Mariners, bouncing around in small markets ever since, Luetge's never had this type of fan base backing him like he did during Grapefruit League play.
"I feel like the response from the media and the fans kind of helped push the organization to make the decision towards me," Luetge said. "The bigger media presence helped get my name out there as opposed to just when you're not on TV playing, a lot of people don't see you. I got eyes on me. And they saw what I could do."
With left-handers Zack Britton and Justin Wilson starting the season on the injured list, Luetge is poised to help this bullpen perform early on. That said, the journeyman understands how quickly a big-league opportunity can be taken away.
His arduous journey back to the show made him question if the grind was worth it. So, now that he's back, he's doing his best to enjoy every moment and take it all in.
"I'm trying to stay as calm as I can to try to act like it's another day, but I know it's not," he said. "It helps you when you're here. Everything's great, the money is great, life is great. And then when you're not, it's just a struggle to get back up. So, enjoy what you're doing, a lot of people wish they could do it. Just look around and enjoy."
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