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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Luke Voit comes up big for Yankees on Opening Day

Luke Voit of the Yankees follows through on

Luke Voit of the Yankees follows through on his first-inning three-run home run against the Orioles on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

After hitting a three-run home run to centerfield  for the Yankees’ first runs of 2019, Luke Voit reflected on his place in the Opening Day batting order — fourth behind Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

Voit called the 6-7, 282-pound Judge and the 6-6, 245-pound Stanton “futuristic superheroes.” What does that make the 6-3, 225-pound Voit?

“The baby of the group,” Voit said.

Oh, baby! Voit drove in four runs as the Yankees opened their season with a 7-2 victory over the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.

Voit got the Yankees on the board with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the first, hitting a 428-foot home run off the glass overhanging Monument Park.

“I only swung the bat twice today,” said Voit, who was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and walked twice for a perfect 1-for-1 opener as the designated hitter. “It feels good to get off to a good start and it was a lot of fun today.”

It was a totally fun day for the Yankees, who steamrolled the undermanned Orioles in front of a sellout crowd of 46,928 that yelled “Luuuuuuuke” from the moment No. 45 was announced during pregame introductions.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Voit said. “It’s crazy how they took me in and I hope they don’t boo me away too quick because I know it’s New York.”

If he keeps doing what he’s doing, those Lukes won’t change to boos anytime soon. The boos were reserved for Greg Bird, who struck out three times before homering off lefthander Paul Fry in the eighth.

Bird made the Opening Day roster because of the injury to Aaron Hicks. Voit was going to make it either way.

“It’s unbelievable,” Voit said. “Who would have thought I’d be here for Opening Day?”

Probably not Brian Cashman, probably not even in the general manager’s wildest dreams when he acquired Voit from the Cardinals last July 29 along with international bonus slot money for pitchers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos.

Did Cashman know he would be getting a player who would hit .333 with 14 homers and a 1.095 OPS in 39 games down the stretch? Did he know he’d be getting a player who followed it up with four home runs and a .943 OPS in spring training? If he did, then Cashman is truly a genius.

Consider the pantheon of great Yankees cleanup hitters: Lou Gehrig. Joe DiMaggio. Reggie Jackson. Alex Rodriguez.

Luke Voit.

OK, OK, we won’t get that carried away — yet. But the legend of Luke only grew after he came to the plate in the bottom of the first.

Voit fits the look of the traditional cleanup man: big, beefy, with bulging biceps and power to spare.

Remember that old cartoon of Bugs Bunny playing baseball in a stadium that was a combination of the Polo Grounds and old Yankee Stadium? Voit would fit right in with the burly “Gas House Gorillas,” a team of unshaven, cigar-chomping sluggers who Conga-lined their way around the bases with (literally) screaming home runs until Bugs came in to “perplex ‘em with my slowball.”

One-two-three strikes yer out! One-two-three strikes yer out! One-two-three strikes yer out!

But what worked for Bugs didn’t work for Orioles pitchers. In the first, starter Andrew Cashner fell behind 3-and-1 before throwing an 87-mph. Voit deposited it where mediocre slowballs are destined to go and the Yankees had a 3-0 lead four batters into the first bottom of the first of 2019.

Voit, with a chance for another three-run homer in the third, instead showed the discipline to take a walk to load the bases. The Yankees scored another run on Miguel Andujar’s double-play ball to go up 4-0.

The bases were loaded again when Voit faced Mike Wright in the fifth. Wright hit Voit in the left elbow with a pitch to make it 5-1 and give Voit a four-RBI day. Voit walked again in the seventh.

“What a day,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Just great at-bats.”

New York Sports