SEATTLE – Matt Carpenter showed up in St. Petersburg, Florida, on May 26 hoping for one more moment or two in the big-league sun after the three-time All-Star with the Cardinals looked as if such moments were well behind him.
“I told them,” Carpenter said upon reporting to Tropicana Field for his first day as a Yankee, “if they want me to load the bags on the plane, I’ll do it.”
The 36-year-old’s words and, soon after that, actions as a teammate immediately made him a popular clubhouse figure – among the more popular new players to arrive in-season in the Yankees’ clubhouse in years.
And then the lefty-swinging Carpenter started to hit. And hit. And hit.
Which never really stopped until the flukiest of injuries occurred here Monday night when Carpenter fouled a ball off his back foot (left) in the batter’s box, causing a fracture that may well cost him the rest of the season, though the player didn’t feel that way.
“My mindset is that I'll be back,” he said. “I'm not going to let my mind go anywhere else. I'm not even going to accept the fact that this will be it for me."
Miguel Andujar, who has been looking for consistent time in the majors as he’s been consistently productive for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, flew cross-country Tuesday to take Carpenter’s spot on the roster.
Carpenter will see a foot specialist Wednesday morning to see if a 2022 return is possible.
“I'm hopeful that I can come back and contribute,” he said. “I don't have a timeline yet, but I'm hopeful for the best.”
The injury was the reason the mood in the visiting clubhouse here, though generally happy after the Yankees ended a season-high five-game losing streak with a 9-4 victory, wasn’t what it normally would be after that kind of win.
“He’s become such an important factor in that room,” Aaron Boone said. “Everyone loves him, and he’s been incredibly productive. It’s a blow. Hopefully we get him back at some point.”
Productive is an understatement.
Carpenter is hitting .307 with 15 homers, 37 RBIs and a 1.147 OPS in 127 at-bats spread out of 47 games. That in addition, as Boone alluded, to becoming a leader in a clubhouse already with a handful of them, cast a bit of a pall.
“I feel for him,” Jameson Taillon said. “I have no doubt in my mind that he’s still going to make an impact on this team, even while he’s hurt. He’s come in here right away and made an impact on a lot of people. He’s not afraid to talk pitching with the pitchers, he’s not afraid to give honest feedback. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever been around and played well. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds his way back and makes an impact.”
Josh Donaldson, another veteran, shook his head regarding the Carpenter injury.
“He’s obviously been a difference maker on the field for us, what he’s been able to do for us in the box,” Donaldson said. “In the clubhouse, he’s been just as big. Great guy, great clubhouse presence, and he’s definitely going to be missed for however long it’s going to be. We’re hoping he gets some good news and it’s not going to be season-ending for him.”
Carpenter, his left foot in a walking boot after Monday’s game and using crutches to get around, was waiting by his locker when the media walked into the clubhouse after the game.
It was another example of why several of his teammates have described Carpenter’s as “a pro’s pro,” almost from the time he joined the club in late May.
“It stinks,” said one of the Yankees’ newest players, outfielder Andrew Benintendi, acquired just before the Aug. 2 trade deadline. “Obviously, he means a lot to this team, and obviously he’s a guy who knows a lot about the game and has something to say and you can learn from him every single day. We’re definitely going to miss him.”