MIAMI — The distinctive crack of a well-struck ball about to be traveling a great distance sent a surge of energy through a Yankees dugout lacking in exactly that for most of 2021.
And it started with the manager.
"It is a little rush of adrenaline where you’re just kind of like, ‘Ooh!' " Aaron Boone said. "It is exciting."
The moment came in the sixth inning Friday night when Anthony Rizzo, among the new Yankees added just before the trade deadline, connected on Zach Thompson's 1-and-0 fastball and sent it screaming halfway up the second deck in right for a 449-foot homer. It broke a scoreless tie and was the first homer as a Yankee for Rizzo, who walked in his first plate appearance and later singled and scored.
"It is something that lights up the dugout," Boone said. "And, obviously, him being the player that he is, coming in his first day and getting that kind of hit was pretty cool. It definitely electrified the guys a little bit."
Indeed, the entire trade deadline seemed to have that effect on the Yankees’ roster.
Since word broke during Wednesday night’s game in St. Petersburg against the Rays that the Yankees were getting Joey Gallo, who also made his debut Friday night, there has been a palpable enthusiasm expressed by players. No player or staff member, of course, would openly admit that energy had been lacking for much of the season, but the difference the last few days has been noticeable.
Even after he was rocked to the tune of eight runs (seven earned) in the Yankees’ 14-0 loss to the Rays on Thursday afternoon, ace Gerrit Cole perked up when asked about the trade deadline and the Gallo acquisition (the Rizzo deal had not yet gone through).
"I would say just generally, a big part of the reason why I'm here is because of the mentality of this organization," Cole said. "I trust that they're going to do what's best for the organization and best to win every time they have an opportunity to do that. I just trusted that they're going to try to make us better, one way or another. And they did."
Jameson Taillon, who has been the Yankees’ best pitcher of late, continued that trend with 5 2/3 scoreless innings Friday night, improving to 6-0 with a 2.11 ERA in his last seven starts and 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in his last five. He spoke Thursday of the clubhouse reaction to management’s aggressiveness.
"It just shows that they believe in this team," Taillon said. "We've obviously been through some adversity so far, and we've had our ups and downs, but it lets us know that they believe in the group that we have and that we're a piece or two away from making a nice run here. So that part of it is exciting; everyone was talking about it [Wednesday night]. There was definitely a buzz in the clubhouse. Guys were excited."
Nothing, however, compared to the excitement felt by the two additions, who went from teams out of contention for the playoffs to one very much capable of getting there.
"It’s just an amazing feeling and opportunity for me to come in here and play for the Yankees, in this lineup, in New York City," said Rizzo, whose parents are from Lyndhurst, New Jersey. "You just can’t ask for more as a player. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about this franchise and how it’s operated . . . I’m excited to dive in and learn and see everything the Yankees' franchise has to offer."