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Nick Nelson making strong case for Yankees’ bullpen

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DUNEDIN, Fla. — Nick Nelson continued to state his case to make the roster out of spring training, as the fireballing right-hander struck out two more batters in 1 ¹/₃ innings on Sunday.

The 25-year-old routinely hit 98 mph and has allowed just five base runners in 6 ¹/₃ shutout innings this spring.

Typically a starter throughout his minor league career, Nelson made 11 relief appearances with the Yankees last season and figures to do more of the same in 2021.

“I could see maybe his long-term future could be as a starter, but I certainly see an immediate role, potentially, as a reliever,’’ Boone said. “As a guy who throws multi-innings down there and possibly in high-leverage situations.”

Boone likened the 25-year-old to Jonathan Loaisiga, another hard-throwing right-hander the Yankees like a lot.

Nelson is still working to make his offspeed pitches more consistent and is confident his slider and curveball are improving, along with his changeup.

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Nick Nelson
Nick Nelson
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

It’s been nearly two weeks since Boone had a pacemaker inserted and the manager is still amazed by how he feels compared to the months leading up to the procedure.

“Awesome,’’ Boone said. “So much better [and more] energy.”

Boone said he was fatigued and sometimes light-headed due to a low heart rate, which the pacemaker has addressed.


Left-hander Lucas Luetge pitched another scoreless inning Sunday — although this time, he struck out only one.

The 33-year-old has opened eyes in camp, including his own.

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“The spring has been better than I expected,’’ Luetge said. “You always want to come in starting off [well], but I didn’t know it would be this good with the strikeouts. I want to keep rolling.”

Luetge whiffed eight of the first 11 batters he faced prior to Sunday, but said his command wasn’t as sharp against Toronto.

“Most of the games until [Sunday], I was able to throw all my pitches for a strike,’’ Luetge said. “My ball is moving a lot.”

He could be an arm the Yankees consider in the wake of losing Zack Britton likely until June due to elbow surgery.

“I try to do my thing and worry about my pitching,’’ Luetge said of the roster situation.

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Austin Wells has become the Yankees’ No. 6 prospect, per MLB.com, thanks in large part to his bat. But the 21-year-old catcher has also spent his first spring training in the organization working on his defense, getting used to the new one-knee-down stance that catchers throughout the system have undertaken.

After being the Yankees’ first-round pick last June, Wells began the transition last year through a remote program, organized by minor league catching coordinator Aaron Gershenfeld. Now he is getting hands-on experience, with catching instructor Tanner Swanson calling Wells “the gold standard in terms of his commitment to some of the initiatives we’ve put in place.”

There have been questions about whether Wells will stick at catcher in the long term, or end up in  left field or at first base. But he’s a believer in the new catching stance.

“I like that it helps me stay lower in the stance, helps me get into better positions to block, better positions to receive, which is the main goal,” Wells said.

— Additional reporting by Greg Joyce

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