For all the emotions Lucas Luetge was feeling Tuesday, he also experienced some physical ailments directly related to the phone call he got from Aaron Boone.
The 34-year-old lefty reliever’s jaw hurt and he had a headache from smiling so much after finding out he had made the Yankees roster – his ticket back to the big leagues for the first time in six years.
“It was just everything I’ve been hoping for the last five or six years, finally came true,” Luetge said Thursday before the Yankees opened the season against the Blue Jays. “You just feel that sense of joy again.”
Luetge, who last appeared in a MLB game on April 25, 2015 with the Mariners, won a job in the Yankees’ bullpen thanks to a strong spring training performance coupled with Justin Wilson’s shoulder tightness that put him on the injured list to begin the season.
Across 10 1/3 innings of Grapefruit League play, Luetge struck out 18 batters while giving up just two runs. He then spent the final days of camp anxiously waiting to hear if he had made the roster before Boone finally called him on Tuesday with the good news, allowing him to breathe a little easier.
“I’m trying to stay as calm as I can to try to act like it’s another day,” Luetge said of Opening Day. “I know it’s not. But I gotta be ready to go pitch tonight if my name’s called. But I’m gonna take it all in. When you’re out of the game or the big leagues for so long, you realize how quick it can go from you. While you’re up here, it seems like you’re going to be here forever. I kind of have that appreciation now, just to take it all in, look around the stadium, enjoy it, instead of just trying to look cool and act like you don’t care.”
The journey back to the big leagues made Thursday’s opener all the more special for Luetge.
“At some points you start doubting yourself, because even when you’re having a good year, like I’ve had the last two years, if you don’t get that call, you’re like, ‘Am I just wasting my time?’” Luetge said. “When you’re here, everything’s great, the money’s great, life is great. When you’re not, it’s just a struggle to get back up. So now, enjoy what you’re doing. A lot of people wish they could do it. Just look around and enjoy.”