Righthander Simeon Woods Richardson was preparing for his spring training debut on March 3 when the lineups were announced.
As he listened to the names—including DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Brett Gardner and Gary Sanchez—it struck him that this time he wasn’t going to be seeing the Yankees stars on TV, but rather in the batter’s box against him.
“Everything was speeding up,” the 20-year-old said. “First time on the mound, your adrenaline is going, taking over pretty much your whole body. Can’t feel your fingers. You’re just trying to throw a strike. But you’re so amped up.
“Getting more comfortable, pitching more innings, that starts to dial down, and the way you pitch starts to come out and the way your game evolves comes out.”
It certainly did that night for the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Woods Richardson. He threw two clean innings, allowing a walk while striking out Stanton. And he pitched just as well during his other two spring appearances, throwing three shutout innings each time.
He faced an array of Yankees regulars every time, even though he hadn’t pitched above High-A before spending last summer at the alternate training site.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Woods Richardson said. “I would love to face MVPs and home run champions just to let me know where I’m at. And I’ve got a good feeling where I’m at and getting pretty comfortable.”
The Blue Jays hope that continues for Woods Richardson, who was acquired from the Mets in the 2019 deal for Marcus Stroman, at Double-A New Hampshire, his assignment to open the 2021 season. The Mets drafted him in the second round in 2018 out of high school in Sugar Land, Texas.
While everyone is being careful not to overrate his spring sample, Woods Richardson has accelerated his timeline by showing well at the alternate site and spring training.
With a curveball, slider and changeup to complement a fastball he commands well—and a work-quick ethos the defenders behind him love—Woods Richardson’s progress will be closely monitored to gauge his proximity.
— Austin Martin, the fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft, will open the season at Double-A New Hampshire, splitting time between shortstop and center field. Jordan Groshans will also play shortstop there, as well as third base.
—Alek Manoah will open the season at Triple-A Buffalo, which will play out of Trenton with Sahlen Field undergoing repairs ahead of the expected summertime arrival of the Blue Jays.