MOOSIC — Even with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders sitting one game out in the International League Wild Card race, winning is secondary these days in Moosic.
With September call-ups just a day ago, the main goal for the New York Yankees’ Triple-A ball club has been to make sure its players are ready when they get promoted to the Bronx. Winning and making the International League playoffs are just added bonuses and help make the dog days of August a little more enjoyable at the ball park.
It’s why Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams, two of the organization’s top pitching prospects, have been transitioned to the bullpen. Because when they do get that phone call, it likely won’t be to come up and help out as a starting pitcher. Instead, the Yankees will use them out of the bullpen.
Adams has already seen it. One of his two appearances in pinstripes this season has came in relief.
“That’s the most important thing, really — to get up there and help out the major league club in September,” RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell said earlier this week. “We’re fighting for a playoff spot right now and it’s fun. It’s a good thing because I think that type of playoff atmosphere is important to experience before you get to the big leagues. All these guys are all beat up like any other team, but they have to go out and give it their best shot. We’ll lose a few guys with Sept. 1, like we have all year, and just move on.”
Pitching in relief is new for Sheffield. And quite frankly, it’s getting some taking used to.
When Sheffield made his first relief appearance of the season Aug. 21 in Buffalo — technically it was his second after he piggybacked a rehabbing A.J. Cole back in June — he wanted to be aggressive at first and make a statement.
He did. In the first inning. But after striking out a pair in a perfect seventh inning, Sheffield struggled when he came out for the eighth and ended up blowing a save.
So naturally, Sheffield readjusted for his second relief appearance on Aug. 25. He wanted to slowly build himself up.
That didn’t work either as Sheffield blew yet another save. But the 22-year-old southpaw did learn a few things during his trials and tribulations, which were on display when he retired the side against Syracuse in an inning of work on Thursday.
“I feel like I threw the ball well both of the times,” Sheffield said. “It was just literally two pitches I got beat on that it came down to, but I feel like it was a good learning experience for me to go in there and kind of try to figure out how I’m suppose to be mentally when I get out there. I’m not going to really think about it too much because all I know is going out there and competing and getting guys out and keeping the games close.”
For Adams, relieving is somewhat of a comfortable role.
The 23-year-old right-hander was drafted as a reliever and spent his entire first season as a pro in the bullpen as he pitched his way through Low-A Staten Island, Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa. Then in 2016 he moved into the starting rotation.
Now back in the bullpen again, Adams has been able to draw from his time as a reliever.
“I just go out there and try to have a little bit more energy, I guess,” Adams said. “I just go out there and pitch, try to do my job.”
Sheffield has always made it known that his goal this year was to make the Yankees.
Now that it looks like he has a definitive role carved out with the big-league club — Yankees general manager Brian Cashman saying that Sheffield will likely need three or four appearances out of the RailRiders bullpen before he’s ready — the 22-year-old southpaw can settle in as he gets a little more seasoning.
“I still want to, obviously, do what I need to do down here because you just never know,” Sheffield said. “I want to get better every day, personally, and I want to continue to get better every day. I want to show those guys — even though that they say that’ll I’ll possibly will be going up — I still want to show those guys that I can go to the bullpen and I can do this. I can move to this role to help them up out there.”
Because at the end of the day Sheffield and Adams want to help the Yankees win a World Series.
“That’d be honestly crazy, but right now I’m going to just take it day-by-day,” Sheffield said. “Hopefully I can find my way up there and take it day-by-day up there.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle