Game 1 of Kendrys Morales’ Yankees career came in Game 2 of the doubleheader against the Orioles Wednesday night at the Stadium.
The plan isn’t for Morales to be a spectator, especially with so many injuries among the group right now.
The 35-year-old switch-hitter from Cuba arrived during the opener after being acquired from Oakland Tuesday night and was activated between games. Aaron Boone inserted him right away as the DH. Morales singled in the eighth for his first hit in pinstripes and finished 1-for-2 with two walks in the Yankees’ 3-1 win.
The dream had come true.
“We have a saying in Cuba that our dream is to play for the Yankees,” Morales said via an interpreter. “And here I am today.”
He brought a .267 career average and 212 homers with six teams across 13 seasons after GM Brian Cashman traded for him along with cash considerations in exchange for a player to be named or cash. Morales had been designated for assignment Monday.
“He’s going to come here and there should be quite a few at-bats for him,” Boone said. “Obviously, the DH role is one of the roles we see him in. Obviously, the ability to play first, too. But I definitely see a good amount of DH at-bats.”
He can be an option to spell Luke Voit on occasion. The first baseman was struggling, but he broke out in Game 2, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
Morales hadn’t broken out in his first season with the A’s. He was off to a slow start, batting .204 (22-for-108) with one double, one triple, one homer and seven RBIs in 34 games. Boone, however, liked his advanced stats. His ability to hit lefthanded is also welcome with a team heavy on righty bats. Boone said Morales can “balance out our lineup a little bit.”
“We feel like even in Oakland, I know the numbers weren’t great, but we feel like the underlying numbers were a lot better than what he’s done so far, coming off a good second half of the season a year ago,” Boone said. “So a chance to get a quality major-league hitter I think is definitely something that was exciting, especially in the short term right now.”
The bad beginning was nothing new for Morales.
“By now, I’ve had a couple of seasons like that where I started a little slow,” Morales said. “But eventually I adjust to the game and to the pitchers and I end up having a good season.”
Morales has launched at least 20 homers seven times, including each of the last four seasons. Last year was his second season with Toronto. He owned a .249/.331/.438 slash line with 21 homers and 57 RBIs.
“His body of work, his career, this guy has been a really good hitter,” Boone said. “We’ve seen it firsthand obviously playing in this division with the Blue Jays the last several seasons. Basically, we feel like he’s still that guy.”