New York Yankees' Luke Voit hitting a RBI single against...

New York Yankees' Luke Voit hitting a RBI single against the Baltimore Orioles in the top of the 3rd inning during spring training at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL Tuesday, March 2, 2021 Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — After a flurry of speculation during the last week, and in the last 48 hours in particular, Jay Bruce is in.

But only because Luke Voit is out.

The first baseman, who has battled knee soreness on and off during spring training, soon will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and will start the season on the injured list.

Before the Yankees beat the Blue Jays, 5-1, on Saturday afternoon at Steinbrenner Field, Aaron Boone said Voit will have three weeks of non-baseball activity after the procedure before starting to "ramp up from there."

Asked if that means a return by June, Boone said he believes it will be "considerably sooner" than that.

"Three weeks is not that far off," Boone said. "So we'll see. I mean, let's have the surgery, see how the early days are and then we'll be able to evaluate. But the timeline would be before that."

Voit led MLB with 22 home runs in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Yankees first baseman Luke Voit will start the season on the injured list after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee, opening up a spot for Jay Bruce to make the roster. Newsday's Erik Boland has more. Credit: Newsday / Erik Boland/Erik Boland

Boone said Voit, whom rival scouts have suggested throughout spring training appeared to be favoring the knee — "he just wasn’t moving that well at all," one said — could have played through the discomfort but thought long-term.

"It was kind of a decision between getting it treated and playing through it, because functionally he was playing, but was still dealing with some swelling in there after games and things like that," Boone said. "We felt like, calendar-wise, it was best to get this over and taken care of, and hopefully put it behind him for the bulk of the season."

The Voit injury opened a roster spot for Bruce, who primarily has been an outfielder in his career but also can play first base.

"I wanted to be here," Bruce said of sticking with the Yankees, who attempted to trade for him before the 2017 trade deadline when he was with the Mets (he was dealt to Cleveland instead).

Bruce has played in 1,564 career games in his 13-year career, just 54 of them at first base (compared to 1,437 in rightfield and 1,510 overall in the outfield).

"Good enough," one National League scout said of Bruce as a first baseman. "Moves out there better than Voit, honestly."

Bruce said of his play at first: "I feel like it's been good. I feel like there's a lot of things that I need to work on and want to continue to work on. But I'm confident that I can play a very adequate first base, and with the more practice, I think I can be good over there. And [it] sounds like I'm going to get a lot more of an opportunity to be there pretty exclusively for the foreseeable future here, and I look forward to being able to focus on that. There's a lot of work to do, but I'm looking forward to it."

When he signed a minor-league deal Feb. 13, Bruce, 33, was considered to be a roster lock because he bats lefthanded, has power (318 home runs in 13 seasons) and can play the outfield and first. But Mike Tauchman’s emergence during the last few weeks and Bruce’s slump at the plate and at times uneven play at first made the decision between the two a source of intense organizational debate, with the momentum of late pointing toward keeping Tauchman, 30.

Tauchman, in addition to being able to play all three outfield positions and being relatively inexpensive — he’s due to make $575,000 this season — is under team control the next four years.

Bruce had an out in his contract that he could have exercised on Thursday if he was not informed whether he would be added to the big-league roster. According to his contract, he could have requested that the Yankees make him available to the remaining 29 teams, who would have had 48 hours to put him on their big-league roster. It was headed in that direction until the early hours Saturday morning, when Bruce was informed of the Voit situation by his agent and told that he had made the club.

"I’m extremely excited about making the team," Bruce said. "Obviously, Luke’s injury is disheartening for everyone. I wish him a speedy and full recovery. I had meniscus surgery in 2014, so I know what he’s going through. He’s obviously a big part of this team. My goal is not to come here to replace Luke Voit, it’s to be Jay Bruce and help the team, just like I planned on helping the team when I signed the contract to come here. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity."

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