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Yankees’ rotation battle: Severino, Montgomery ‘in conversation’

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Manager Joe Girardi said the Yankees know who their fourth starter is and have defined a role for Luis Severino, but wouldn’t divulge whether the right-hander is a fit for the big leagues.

What Girardi did say was that the club views the 23-year-old right-hander as a starter.

“We have an idea what we’re going to do with him for the most part. We haven’t had a chance to talk completely about it, but we have an idea what we’re going to do,’’ Girardi said of Severino, who will start Thursday against the Phillies in Clearwater.

While Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Jordan Montgomery and Severino remain in a competition for the fourth starter’s spot — the Yankees don’t need a fifth until April 16 — it appears Severino will be the choice. If that’s the case, he would be in line to start the home opener April 10 against the Rays.

Severino’s spring has been up and down, but three scoreless innings against the Phillies in his most recent outing in which he didn’t allow a hit and fanned five was very impressive.

Montgomery allowed one run and six hits Wednesday against the Blue Jays without his best stuff. Though he had an impressive 2016 minor league season and three straight solid outings to finish the exhibition schedule, the 24-year-old lefty has made just six starts above Double-A.

“He’s definitely in the conversation,’’ Girardi said of Montgomery, who could open the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and be ready for April 16 or later.

Of Montgomery’s five frames, just the final one was clean.

“I got caught up in the lineup and over-thought it too much,’’ Montgomery said.

Tyler Wade impressed Yankees decision-makers with the ability to play the infield and outfield. Nevertheless, he never was a strong candidate to fill in while Didi Gregorius is out with a right shoulder injury and was reassigned to minor league camp on Wednesday.

Technically, Pete Kozma, who isn’t on the 40-man roster, is competing against Rob Refsnyder for the final infield spot on the 25-man roster, but the job will go to the former Cardinals shortstop, who is a far superior defender. Refsnyder has the better bat, but can’t play shortstop.

“[Kozma] is a guy who is really fun to watch as a defender. When you watch him play, you say, ‘That’s what a major league shortstop looks like.’ He stands out how he moves. He is so smooth. He has instincts, range and athleticism. He’s fun to watch,’’ said Mike Matheny, who managed Kozma with the Cardinals.

“A team like the Yankees will understand he will save runs and, in a way, that is run production. I have told Pete not to settle on being this guy [defense only]. He has the skill set to put together quality at-bats. He has bat speed, athleticism. He might not be a 30-homer guy, but he can be a contributor to a winning team.”

Kozma is a career .222 hitter and is batting .222 (8-for-36) this spring.

Kozma, who turns 29 on April 11, has appeared at short in 206 big league games (146 starts) and played the position for four games in the 2013 World Series against the Red Sox. He played 130 games last year for SWB and batted .209.

As for the 22-year-old Wade, who hit .357 (15-for-42), Girardi said he liked what he saw.

“He is a kid who hasn’t played in Triple-A. We feel he is a kid who needs to play every day. Besides it is probably better for his development to continue to play every day and move around,’’ Girardi said. “He played very well and we liked what we have seen from him. He is another kid who will be very versatile and play a lot of positions. He offers a ton of value, and it’s important we finish him off.’’


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