ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – One of the Yankees biggest sparkplugs – on the field and in the clubhouse – made his return to the club Tuesday night.
Luke Voit, who underwent surgery March 29 to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee, started at first base against the Rays at Tropicana Field and batted fifth.
"He’s not only a dangerous hitter but a really good hitter," Aaron Boone said Tuesday before his team started a three-game series. "Just a guy that adds some obvious length to our lineup, somebody that goes right into the middle of that lineup and is a really good hitter with tremendous power with plate discipline."
Though the Yankees come into this series playing their best baseball of the season – they’re coming off a 7-2 record on a just-completed homestand and were winners in 12 of their last 17 games – they without question have missed Voit.
Besides emerging as a prominent clubhouse voice and leader since being acquired just before the 2018 trade deadline, Voit’s on-field production has been fairly consistent in that time and in his absence first base has been mostly a black hole. Those manning the position, especially Mike Ford and the since-retired Jay Bruce, did not produce.
Voit, coming off of a 2020 in which he led all of the majors in homers with 22, hit .389 (7-for-18) with three homers and two doubles, in a five-game rehab stint with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre that concluded Sunday.
"It’s a big deal getting him back in there," Boone said. "I’m excited to see him hopefully start having an impact tonight."
The Yankees – and Voit for that matter – could not have hand-picked a better opponent for him to return against. Voit, 30, came into Tuesday a career .309 hitter with seven homers and a 1.010 OPS in 29 games against the Rays, including posting a .297 average with one homer and a .906 OPS in 12 games at Tropicana Field.
And Voit, like most of his teammates, has no love lost for Tampa, which won eight of 10 vs. the Yankees last regular season before taking them out in a five-game ALDS at neutral site San Diego. Voit, who made the second out in the 1-2-3 ninth inning against Diego Castillo in the deciding 2-1 loss in Game 5, was not made available before Tuesday’s game. But the first baseman has made clear his feelings about losing to the Rays and how long it took him to recover from the postseason loss.
"It takes a while, man," Voit said in February before being honored at the annual Thurman Munson awards dinner to benefit AHRC New York City Foundation. "Especially this being my third year in a row with the Yankees and not making the World Series and winning the World Series. So it definitely left a sore spot on me and it’s going to carry into [this] year, too. I’m ready to get back at those guys."