At least Giancarlo Stanton made it to the 15th game of the season this time.
The Yankees’ oft-injured slugger was removed for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning of Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Rays because of tightness in his left hamstring.
Stanton, who was injured in the third game of the 2019 season and played in only 18 regular-season contests, likely is headed for the MRI tube and then the injured list, manager Aaron Boone said after the Yankees split the doubleheader at Tropicana Field.
Stanton was off to a terrific start. He had played in 14 of the Yankees’ first 15 games, each time as the designated hitter. When he was removed for pinch hitter Mike Ford, Stanton was batting .293 (12-for-41) with three home runs, seven RBIs and a 1.038 OPS. He hit a solo home run in the fifth inning of the Yankees’ 8-4 Game 1 victory.
Boone said Stanton was injured advancing to second on a wild pitch in the fourth inning of Game 2. YES Network later showed video of Stanton flexing his left leg while on second. Stanton stayed in the game and scored the Yankees’ first run.
“We’re going to get an MRI, but it does look like it’s an IL situation,” Boone said. “Hurting for him. Period. I know what he’s done to be here. Obviously, his play speaks for itself. Hopefully it’s something that doesn’t end up keeping him down too long.”
Stanton, 30, was able to return from various injuries in 2019 and played in nine postseason games. But he got hurt in the postseason, too, and came into 2020 hoping for an injury-free third season as a Yankee. With just a 60-game season, his ability to come back from an injury will be tested again.
Starting in 2021, Stanton still will be owed $186 million on a contract that is guaranteed through the 2027 season (including a $10 million buyout for 2028; a portion of the total will be paid by his former club, the Miami Marlins). Stanton can opt out after this season but is unlikely to do so, given his injury history and the economic realities of the industry.
Said Aaron Judge: “It’s tough. A guy that’s starting out with MVP numbers . . . It’s going to be a tough loss however long he’s out. But our motto, just like last year, is ‘Next man up.’ We’ve got a stacked team. A lot of guys at alternate sites that are champing at the bit to get the opportunity.”
Recently demoted Miguel Andujar is the most likely alternate-site Yankee to replace Stanton on the roster and at DH.
Boone, Thames ejected
The Yankees and Rays have feuded for years about beanballs and brushback pitches. Not even a pandemic can stop that, apparently.
Boone and Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames were ejected by plate umpire Vic Carapazza before the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 2 in what Boone said was a misunderstanding by the umpire.
Carapazza apparently thought Thames was yelling at him from the dugout of the fan-less stadium about balls and strikes. But Thames actually was yelling at the Rays about tight pitches to Yankees batters.
After Thames was ejected, Boone ran out to find out why. An argument ensued and Carapazza ejected Boone, too.
“He misinterpreted what Marcus said,” Boone said, later adding: “He should not have been thrown out of the game and that’s that.”
The real issue was the Yankees not appreciating up-and-in fastballs to DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela. “I think it was more just about the history,” Judge said. “Having somebody throw at [Austin] Romine’s head a couple of years ago, you don’t usually forget stuff like that. To continue to throw up and in, that’s tough. We’ve got a lot of big hitters up there and we know they’re going to throw in, but to miss that far up and in that many times, you’re going to get a little barking from the dugout.”
Yanks DFA LI's Tropeano
West Islip native and lifelong Yankees fan Nick Tropeano got to wear a Yankees uniform with No. 35 on his back for two games starting on Thursday.
The former Stony Brook righthander did not get to pitch, though, and on Saturday he was designated for assignment (i.e., taken off the team’s roster) because the Yankees needed to make room for a backup catcher.
Tropeano had been added to the roster before Thursday’s game in Philadelphia because reliever Tommy Kahnle had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Tropeano also was active for Friday’s game against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was tentatively scheduled to speak to the media via Zoom before Saturday’s doubleheader against the Rays.
But on Saturday, the Yankees had to place backup catcher Kyle Higashioka on the injured list with a right oblique strain (retroactive to Thursday). They needed a 40-man roster spot to add catcher Erik Kratz, who was traveling with the big-league club as a member of its five-man taxi squad. So they deleted Tropeano.
It’s a tough break for Tropeano, who will turn 30 on Aug. 27. He signed with the Yankees in the offseason as a non-roster free agent and, after not making the season’s original 30-man roster, had been practicing at the team’s alternate site in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Now Tropeano is in roster purgatory. The Yankees have seven days to trade him or place him on waivers. He could end up back at Scranton or he could become a free agent.
“We’ve had to have some tough conversations with people,” Boone said on a Zoom news conference. “In Nick’s case, it became a numbers thing with needing a roster spot because of Higgy. So we had to create that spot. To be here for a couple of days and not be able to pitch, that’s difficult. But it’s just the nature of the situation right now.”
Boone said Higashioka will have an MRI on Monday when the Yankees return to New York. He did not know how long Higashioka will be out.
It’s the 40-year-old Kratz’s second stint with the Yankees. He played in four games with the 2017 club and went 2-for-2.
Signed as roster depth before the pandemic, Kratz was planning to play for Team USA in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo if he didn’t make a big-league roster, but the Games were postponed to next year.
So Kratz reported to the Yankees’ alternate site before joining the taxi squad on Thursday, when Higashioka first reported some soreness. Kratz started the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Rays.
The Yankees also had catcher Chris Iannetta on their 60-man player pool, but he was placed on the restricted list on Friday. Iannetta had been designated for assignment on Aug. 1 and assigned to the alternate site on Tuesday. Boone declined to say why Iannetta was placed on the restricted list. Iannetta told The Athletic he had retired.
The only other healthy catchers in the organization are former Met Josh Thole and career minor-leaguer Max McDowell, both of whom are at the alternate site.
Before Game 1, the Yankees also recalled infielder Thairo Estrada. Before Game 2, they sent Estrada back to the alternate site and recalled righthander Ben Heller.
Righthander Albert Abreu was the “29th man” for both games. He made his major-league debut in Game 2 and allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings.
In other news involving Yankees catchers, when Gary Sanchez struck out with the bases loaded in the second inning of Game 1 on Saturday, it dropped him to 3-for-34 with 20 strikeouts. He also had struck out with the bases loaded (on three pitches) in the seventh inning of the Yankees' 1-0 loss to the Rays on Friday night. He was hitting .086 entering Game 2.
New COVID restrictions
Aaron Hicks was asked about the stricter guidelines Major League Baseball has imposed on players in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 after outbreaks hit the Marlins and Cardinals.
“It’s probably going to be a lot more different on planes and stuff like that,” he said. “Our first flight was [Thursday] and that was kind of different. We kind of had to stay where we’re seated and not really mingle around too much . . . It’s kind of what we have to deal with now. It’s kind of the way we’re living. We have to protect ourselves. We have to protect others. It’s kind of become the new normal. I feel like it’s not really affecting us too much.”