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Yankees’ Nick Nelson flashing ‘special’ changeup

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TAMPA — Nick Nelson is giving the Yankees something to think about in the short and long term — including whether his outings should be of the short or long variety.

The right-handed pitcher turned in two strong relief innings Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in his spring debut, flashing a fastball that reached 98 mph and a changeup that manager Aaron Boone called “a special pitch.”

“Showed you what makes him good and that’s a high-octane fastball, but his calling card’s that changeup,” Boone said after the Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Tigers. “He was able to get some key outs and some big swings and misses, even when he was behind in the count. He made a couple pitches when he needed to. The trust in that changeup to go along with that high-90s fastball is something we really like. I feel like he continues to grow in his polish a little bit. He’s definitely someone I and we are excited about.”

The 25-year-old Nelson made his big league debut last summer, giving up 11 earned runs in 20 ²/₃ innings of relief before tossing a pair of scoreless frames in the ALDS against the Rays. Six of the earned runs came in one brutal outing against the Phillies, with seven of his appearances lasting more than an inning.

nick nelson pitches for the yankees in spring training
Nick Nelson is flashing a ‘special’ changeup.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Before 2020, though, Nelson had started 74 games (out of 76 appearances) in the minor leagues. That experience gives the Yankees more starting depth, but he could also be of value again as a reliever.

“Really with Nelly, I could see any and everything,” Boone said. “I could see him continuing to develop as a starter. I’m quite certain he can impact our bullpen in a short situation but also have the ability to give us innings as well. He’s someone that we’ll continue to talk a lot about and have conversations and try to do not only what’s best for him but ultimately what’s best for us moving forward this year. But he certainly is going to figure into the plans, I would think, at some point.”

Boone said he is looking for Nelson to command the strike zone and continue developing his breaking ball— which could go a long way in determining his future role.

“Excited about his continued development,” Boone said. “There’ll be lots of conversations about him moving forward.”

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