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New York Yankees first-base coach Reggie Willits becomes fourth not to return to Aaron Boone’s staff

There’s another hole to fill on Aaron Boone’s coaching staff.

First-base coach and outfielder instructor Reggie Willits is leaving the Yankees to become a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma, his alma mater, the team revealed Thursday.

Willits becomes the latest departure from Boone’s staff after the Yankees did not renew the contracts of third-base coach Phil Nevin and hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere.

“I want to thank Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone and the Steinbrenner family for the opportunity to work for such a world-class organization,” Willits said in a statement.

“I’ve cherished my time with the Yankees and I’ve grown professionally and personally because of the bonds that I’ve formed with so many players, coaches and staff.”

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“It’s been a challenging personal decision to make. I’m leaving a team and organization I’ve loved being a part of, but I’m returning home to be closer to my family and to work for a program I have deep ties to and great respect for.”

The Yankees stated Willits will stay with the organization until the end of December, when his contract expires, before officially joining the Sooners in January.

Two of Willits’ sons, Jaxon and Eli, are committed to play baseball at Oklahoma.

The 40-year-old Willits, an Oklahoma native, has been with the Yankees since 2015 — first as a minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator before becoming the first-base coach/outfield instructor in 2018.

He was credited with helping Clint Frazier become a Gold Glove finalist in right field in 2020 and also worked with Giancarlo Stanton in returning to the outfield this season.

Willits was also the Yankees’ baserunning coach, overseeing a unit that ran into 50 outs on the bases this season — the eighth most in the majors.

Boone, who earlier this week signed a new three-year contract with a club option for the fourth year, and GM Brian Cashman will now be looking for at least four new coaches this offseason.

Bench coach Carlos Mendoza, pitching coach Matt Blake, bullpen coach Mike Harkey and quality control and catching coach Tanner Swanson are currently still on the staff.

Gerrit Cole was named a finalist for the MLB Players Association’s American League Outstanding Pitcher award. The other finalists are Blue Jays lefty Robbie Ray and White Sox right-hander Lance Lynn — potentially foreshadowing the favorites for the AL Cy Young race.

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Cole strikes out 12 in eight innings, Yankees beat Rays 1-0

Gerrit Cole struck out 12 over eight stellar innings, Aaron Hicks had a sacrifice fly and the New York Yankees defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 on Wednesday night amid a coronavirus outbreak that sidelined shortstop Gleyber Torres.

Cole (5-1) scattered four hits and has five starts this season of at least 10 strikeouts and no walks to break Mike Mussina’s single-season team record set in 2001. He struck out all three batters in his final inning, including Brett Phillips on a 98 mph fastball to end the inning.

Aroldis Chapman completed the four-hitter to get his ninth save as New York won consecutive matches, including postseason, versus the Rays for the first time since July 16-18, 2019.

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COVID-19 protocols impacted the Yankees for the second straight day.

Torres was kept out of the starting lineup as a precaution as the number of confirmed positive COVID-19 tests among the team’s coach and support staff reached seven.

New York manager Aaron Boone said there were a number of test results pending. Pitching coach Matt Blake joined third base coach Phil Nevin and first base coach Reggie Willits as members of the coaching staff testing positive.

Six of the seven are asymptomatic. All are fully vaccinated, which Boone said was blunting the effects of the virus.

Cole has not given up a walk and gone at least six innings in each of his last five starts, which ties Fritz Peterson (1971) for the second-longest such stretch in Yankees history. Only David Wells’ six-game streak from Sept. 6, 2002 to Apr. 10, 2003 is longer.

The right-hander, who has walked just three batters this year, has permitted two or fewer earned runs in 12 straight starts, the longest stretch by a Yankees starter excluding openers since Whitey Ford’s 12-game run in 1963.

Jeffrey Springs replaced Ryan Thompson (2-2) with runners on second and third with one out in the seventh and gave up Hicks’ sacrifice fly.

Yankees left fielder Clint Frazier was ejected by plate umpire Bill Miller in the fifth for arguing after taking a called third strike.

Aaron Judge had three of New York’s six hits.

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Montgomery goes 6 strong innings, Yankees beat Rays 3-1

Jordan Montgomery pitched six strong innings, Aaron Judge and Gary Sánchez homered, and the New York Yankees defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 on Tuesday night.

About two hours before the start, it was revealed that Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin is away from the team after a positive COVID-19 test.

The Yankees beat Tampa Bay for just the second time in seven matches this season. The AL champion Rays had won 18 of the last 23 meetings, including a five-game victory in last year’s Division Series.

New York slugger Luke Voit went 0 for 3 in his first game this campaign.

The major league home run leader last year with 22, he was reinstated from the 10-day injured list after having knee surgery on March 29.

Voit was hit by a pitch around the right wrist in the fourth inning and had a flyout to the right-field wall in the seventh.

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Montgomery (2-1) gave up one run, two hits, walked one and tied a career high with nine strikeouts. After Jonathan Loaisiga worked two innings, Aroldis Chapman got three outs to get his eighth save and complete a three-hitter.

Chapman had an eventful ninth, including a visit by a trainer. 

Austin Meadows reached on shortstop Gleyber Torres’ error, but Sánchez later threw out the Rays DH attempting to advance to second. The lefty also walked one and struck out one.

Judge started in right field after being rested Sunday and hit a first-pitch, first-inning solo homer off Luis Patiño (1-1). Judge, who entered with two hits in his previous 24 at-bats, has been dealing with what manager Aaron Boone is calling “lower leg stuff.”

Sánchez made it 3-1 with his shot in the seventh off Josh Fleming. It was his second homer in three matches after a career-high tying 18-game homerless streak.

Mike Zunino connected on a 472-foot solo drive in the third for the Rays. It was the fourth longest homer in MLB this season, behind Yermin Mercedes (485 feet), Ronald Acuña Jr. (481 feet) and Marcell Ozuna (479 feet). Patiño allowed two runs and three hits in four innings.

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