Yanks' Diehl thought trade to Rockies was prank

TAMPA, Fla. -- At first, Phillip Diehl was in disbelief.

When New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone called the slim 24-year-old lefty into his office Saturday afternoon and said the words, "We're trading you," Diehl thought his second-year skipper was playing some kind of sick prank on him.

After all, Diehl sort of felt like he deserved it. Earlier in the day, when the team barber had set up shop for pregame haircuts, the young relief pitcher had taken the spot of a more accomplished southpaw: 18-year veteran CC Sabathia.

"I had taken CC's spot in the barber's chair," Diehl said, grinning.

Now, the spot Diehl had hoped to earn in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse this season will be taken by another player who's coming from another organization.

Just after the Yankees lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 7-3 in their spring training home finale, Diehl was dealt to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for outfielder Mike Tauchman, a third-year major leaguer who hit 30 home runs at Triple-A in 2017 while splitting time on the farm.

Tauchman's addition will help the Yankees address their primary area of need at this stage of spring training: their outfield depth.

"Excited to get a guy we feel like is pretty talented, can play multiple positions in the outfield," Boone said. "A guy that does have options, so we'll talk through and see which way we want to go."

Tauchman, who hit .196 with 8 RBIs, 13 strikeouts and nine walks for Colorado this spring, could be in play for a spot on the Yankees' Opening Day roster, Boone said. If that happens, Tauchman likely would begin the season on New York's bench, playing behind the starting trio of Brett Gardner (in center field), Giancarlo Stanton (in left) and Aaron Judge (in right).

The Yankees' outfield depth became a concern March 1 when center fielder Aaron Hicks was sidelined with a back injury the team originally believed wouldn't keep him out very long.

He hasn't played since.

Hicks told ESPN on Saturday that he will begin the regular season in Tampa, continuing his recovery. He has yet to participate in any kind of baseball activity after receiving a second cortisone shot last Sunday.

New York's other outfield bench option was Tyler Wade, a utility player who has appeared both in the infield and outfield this spring. Wade has turned heads at Yankees camp all spring, entering play Saturday with a .318 average and a .652 OPS. But he was optioned to Triple-A on Sunday morning.

In the case of Diehl, the Yankees are losing a key young reliever who had been thought of highly throughout the organization.

"I just love the way this kid competes, and he threw the ball incredibly well," Boone said. "Obviously people are taking notice. We got a good player for him. That speaks to the camp he had."

Diehl appeared in nine games this spring, going 10 innings. He allowed 11 hits and had 17 strikeouts. A 27th-round pick in the 2016 draft, Diehl had made a positive impression at the High-A and Double-A levels last season that he was tasked with pitching a sim game in Yankee Stadium to Judge when the slugger was making his return from a broken wrist last fall.

"A lot of emotions going through my mind. I enjoyed being a Yankee to the fullest," Diehl said moments after he was traded. "I was treated with nothing but the utmost respect. They made sure that we were comfortable at all times. I made some unbelievable friendships here. I'm going to miss every single one of them.

"But it's a business at the end of the day, and I've got another opportunity to potentially pitch in the big leagues with the Rockies, and I'm looking forward to it."

In addition to trading for Tauchman, the Yankees made room on their 40-man roster by placing pitcher Jordan Montgomery (Tommy John surgery) on their 60-day injured list. Boone also announced the club was keeping pitchers Domingo German and Luis Cessa on their roster to start the season, while optioning fellow right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga to Triple-A.

With Loaisiga down, the Yankees will have Sabathia on their active roster for Opening Day. It means they expect him to begin the season serving out his five-game suspension for hitting Rays catcher Jesus Sucre with a retaliatory pitch last September. Because of the suspension, the Yankees will play one player short of a full 25-man roster the first five games.

Once Sabathia's suspension ends, the Yankees expect to add Sabathia to the 10-day injured list as he finishes his recovery from offseason knee and heart procedures. When Sabathia heads to the injured list following the conclusion of his suspension, Loaisiga will join the team, Boone said.