Justus Sheffield and the Yankees realize that an eventual promotion to the Bronx is a matter of if, not when. But that time is not now.
MLB.com's No. 48 overall prospect was among six players the Yankees reassigned to Minor League camp on Thursday. Right-hander Dillon Tate, the Yankees 11th-ranked prospect, and left-hander Trevor Lane (No. 30) were also among those cut.
Sheffield spent most of last season with Double-A Trenton where he posted a 3.18 ERA in 17 starts spanning 93 1/3 innings. His chance at a promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre all but ended when he was sidelined with a strained oblique from July to September. The Yankees' third-ranked prospect made two rehab appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he shined in five starts, striking out 22 and walking three in 20 1/3 innings for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
"I think he was just going out there and having fun," Yankees director of player development Kevin Reese told MiLB.com. "That slightly different competitive environment in the Fall League is good for people, because the wins and losses aren't quite as important, there are more days off, fewer bus trips and stuff that can get tough on a guy. They just go there and let it fly. It was a good lesson for him because if he goes out there and trusts his stuff, he's going to have a really nice season."
Video: Trenton's Sheffield finishes off first shutout
The 21-year-old was part of the trade that sent All-Star Andrew Miller to the Indians at the trade deadline in 2016.
Sheffield posted an 11.81 ERA over 5 1/3 frames in three Grapefruit League appearances. He allowed three runs over 1 2/3 innings to the Phillies on Thursday afternoon.
Tate, 23, posted a 2.81 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 13 starts for Class A Charleston and Class A Advanced Tampa in 2017. Like Sheffield, the right-hander was obtained prior to the trade deadline in 2016 from the Rangers in exchange for Carlos Beltran. Tate posted a 2.25 ERA over four innings in two appearances this spring.
The 23-year-old Lane crafted a 1.52 ERA in 37 combined relief appearances for Charleston and Tampa in his first full-season campaign last year. The southpaw averaged better than a strikeout per inning, fanning 69 in 65 1/3 frames while walking 15. Lane did not allow a run in three Grapefruit League outings.
Right-handers Cale Coshow and Raynel Espinal and catcher Chace Numata were also sent to Minor League camp.