Lucas Luetge on making Yankees' Opening Day roster: 'My jaw was hurting from smiling'

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Scott Thompson
·3 min read
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Lucas Luetge fires pitch to home in Yankees navy blue spring jersey
Lucas Luetge fires pitch to home in Yankees navy blue spring jersey

Out of the 26 players that will be present for Opening Day on the Yankees, Lucas Luetge might have the biggest smile on his face when his name is called during the ceremonial introductions.

Luetge hasn’t been on a Major League roster since 2015 when he was with the Seattle Mariners. But after reinventing himself and putting in the necessary work to stay effective on the mound, he’s landed in the Yankees’ bullpen to start the season after getting the news from manager Aaron Boone just a couple days ago.

Boone just called me on the day off,” Luetge explained to reporters. “I guess news was starting to get around a little bit, so he wanted to get a hold of me first before I found out. So that was a great phone call. I was waiting, especially the last week, they told me they didn’t know. It was nice to get it done and official so I could breathe a little bit.”

It’s been an incredible journey for the 34-year-old lefty reliever, who dominated at Yankees camp in Tampa this spring. He signed a minor league deal with the club before March began, and as Boone said on Wednesday, the team had their expectations for what he would provide.

“When I was with the Mariners, I was more of a two-seam guy,” Luetge said. “I kinda abandoned that in 2019, maybe before that. Became a cutter, four-seam guy. So to me that’s the biggest difference. Of course, back then, two-seam down in the zone was what everyone was doing. Now it’s four-seam up in the zone to get rise on the ball.

“I just came in ready. Tried to stay doing what I do normally like what I’ve done the last couple years. Trust the process and not worry about immediate results.”

The process Luetge went through was four different teams passing on him from 2016-2020 after spring training. But he posted a 1.74 ERA over 10.1 innings pitched with 18 strikeouts for the Yankees. As Boone said on Wednesday, Luetge just made it hard to pass on him.

So now he’s in the Bronx with his wife, parents and other family members that will be awaiting his call out of the ‘pen.

“By the end of the day they told me, I had a headache. My jaw was hurting from smiling,” Luetge said about all the phone calls and congratulations he got after the news broke. “Just kinda everything I’ve been hoping for the last five or six years finally came true. You just feel that sense of joy again.”

While the excitement is extremely high, Luetge knows he needs to dial it down in case Boone does tap his left arm to call him in.

“I’m trying to stay as calm as I can to try to act like it’s another day. I know it’s not,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I got to be ready to go pitch tonight if my name is called. But I’m going to take it all in. When you’re out of the game or the big leagues for so long, you realize how quick it can go from you. When you’re up here, you seems like you’re going to be here forever. So I kinda have that appreciation now just to take it all in, look around the stadium, enjoy it. Instead of just trying to look cool and act like you don’t care.”