Russell Wilson strikes out in spring training at-bat for Yankees

ByColey Harvey ESPN logo
Saturday, March 3, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. --Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilsongot to stand in the batter's box of a spring training game for the New York Yankeeson Friday.

He went down swinging.

Wilson, pinch-hitting for right fielderAaron Judge,led off the bottom of the fifth inning of Friday's game and facedAtlanta BravesrelieverMax Fried.After chasing the first pitch he saw -- a high fastball that he just missed and fouled back hard -- Wilson worked a 2-2 count before striking out on a fastball.

"That first pitch, I was ready to roll," Wilson said. "I just missed it. If I had connected with that one, it would have gone a long way.

"I'll always remember when they announced my name, and they call you up there and you get to go up to the plate and the crowd's going crazy. The Yankees fans. I used to go crazy for Derek Jeter when he walked up to the plate. And to have that feeling and experience, I'll never ever forget that, and it'll be a memory of mine forever."

Wilson wasn't the only player excited about the at-bat.

"It was cool," said Giancarlo Stanton, who was in the on-deck circle during Wilson's at-bat. "We were anticipating it all day, making sure he was good in the cage and our BP sessions."

Mark Paytonreplaced Wilson and played right field in the sixth inning.

"Anytime you get to be around a Super Bowl-winning quarterback," Judge said, "it's a great time to pick his brain about preparation, how he prepares for a game, what he's thinking throughout the game. Little things like that, you know -- what kind of makes him tick. So it's been fun having him around here. It's been fun kind of sharing stories back and forth."

Wilson has been with the Yankees all week, taking batting practice and fielding ground balls from second base. After trading for him last month, the Yankees previously said Wilson wouldn't be playing in a spring training game.

This marked the first time Wilson has played in a baseball game since 2011, when he was in the Colorado Rockies organization. He went 0-for-5 in that game for the Asheville Tourists, facing current Yankees reliever Chasen Shreve in his final at-bat.

This has been a good week at the plate for Wilson, who has homered regularly in batting practice sessions. He hit six home runs during his first session -- one that put him in a group with Judge and Stanton, the reigning American League and National League home run champions.

"He walked straight in my office this morning with a smile on his face, like, 'Yeah, let's do this,'" Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

Wilson is scheduled to leave Florida on Sunday. He will be returning to California to continue his NFL offseason training.

Although he has been on a baseball field all week, Wilson has kept true to his football workouts. Every morning, including Monday, Wilson and his trainer have gone through their typical mix of light and heavy lift days.

"The reality is I've always been working out, always training," Wilson said. "They know that's part of my game. I'm definitely not sitting on the couch."

Wilson has cited often his close relationship with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Seattle's front office. They have known his interest in wanting to get a live look at major league pitching.

On Thursday, Carroll said at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that he had no problem with Wilson participating in spring training. He just hopes Wilson's approach to pitches in a certain part of the strike zone improves.

"He's not doing a great job of going with pitches away from him," Carroll said. "We are hoping he will start putting the ball into right field a little bit more, you know? We want him to go with the pitch. Aside from that, the curveball is still giving him a problem, like it always did, you know, back in the day. So we will see what happens."

Meanwhile, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was a pregame scratch, taken out of the lineup for what Boone called "a mild oblique strain." Ellsbury felt discomfort on his right side at some point during a batting practice session that Boone praised.

It's unclear how much time Ellsbury will miss. Boone said Ellsbury probably could have played through the injury, but at this early stage in spring training, the manager thought it was best to keep the veteran out of the lineup.

"He looked good swinging, but he felt a little something," Boone said. "So like a lot of little nagging injuries like that, that's something we're not going to mess with. ... Hopefully by missing some [time] here a little bit now, you can save a longer stint later."

Boone also provided an update on left fielder Clint Frazier, who has been out since last Sunday due to concussion-like symptoms. Frazier hit his head on an outfield wall after leaping for and catching a fly ball. Although Frazier had expressed optimism Thursday about the exercises he could do to test his concussion recovery, Boone said Friday that the workouts didn't go as well as the team hoped.

Frazier went for an MRI on Friday.

"We'll see what the results are from that," Boone said, "and just continue to gradually build his workload and see how he responds to different things."

Also on Friday, the Yankees signed veteran Adam Lind to a minor league contract, giving them a backup option to Greg Bird at first base.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that although Lind has outfield experience, he was added for his glove at first base and the possibility for his bat off the bench.

Lind had been at the training camp for free agents organized by the players' association in Bradenton, Florida.The 34-year-old lefty has a .272 average with 200 homers and 723 RBIs in 12 seasons with Toronto (2006-14), Milwaukee (2015), Seattle (2016) and Washington (2017).

He batted .303 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs in 116 games and 301 plate appearances for Washington last season, including four home runs in 48 plate appearances as a pinch hitter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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