Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he could envision his team using openers on some circumstances, especially considering two starting pitchers are dealing with injuries.
With Luis Severino being shut down for two weeks due to rotator cuff inflammation and CC Sabathia expected to start the season on the injured list, Boone said on Wednesday he wouldn't rule out the use of openers -- using relief pitchers to pitch the first inning or two of a game in an assurance to face the opponents' 1-3 hitters -- in 2019.
"I could see it being something we consider from time to time," Boone said, according to ESPN's Coley Harvey. "I don't see it a lot, but yeah, I could see it coming into play on certain occasions."
The Yankees used an opener once last season when they had Jonathan Holder start a Sept. 24 game against the Rays. He was the first of eight pitchers New York used -- Stephen Tarpley, Sonny Gray (two innings), Chad Green, David Robertson, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Zack Britton followed -- in a 4-1 win.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman said before last year's wild-card game the team wouldn't rule it out, and the topic has been brought up several times since. Last month, Boone told SNY.tv's Andy Martino he would consider using openers sparingly.
"I mean, I don't see it being a big play for us, but I could see -- we used it one game last year, Holder started a game for us very late," Boone said before Grapefruit League games began. "So, depending on how healthy we are in our rotation, if we want to pick a day to move a guy back, I could see us on an occasion using it to some degree."
Of course, injuries could play a significant impact in how frequently Boone employs the use of openers.
Severino, who signed a four-year, $40 million extension last month, will receive an injection and anti-inflammatories before he begins a throwing program, however he could start the season on the IL with his Opening Day status in jeopardy.
Even though Sabathia, who had a heart procedure last December, said "everything felt great" after his first bullpen session last Friday, the Yankees have planned around him taking it slow to begin the season.
That leaves James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ the only three healthy starting pitchers. Cashman said the team would "rely on what's in camp" to fill in for Severino and Sabathia, indicating the team probably wouldn't pursue a starting pitcher like Dallas Keuchel or Gio Gonzalez and would instead have a combination of Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa and Domingo German fill in on an interim basis.
But while the Yankees' rotation depth will be tested early on, especially with three weeks until Opening Day, Boone said he wouldn't rely on using an opener once everyone is healthy.
"When we're healthy and right, obviously I don't see it much," Boone said. "But there's some days where you could see it."
In the interim, it's an option.