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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Mike Tauchman has been a good understudy for Yankees, but it'll probably end soon

Mike Tauchman #39 of the Yankees follows through

Mike Tauchman #39 of the Yankees follows through on a fourth inning home run against the Twins at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, May 5, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Many people probably didn’t want the Yankees and Twins to play at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. The forecast was awful, so on Saturday the Yankees announced the start time would be pushed back from 1:05 to 4:05 p.m.

In terms of getting a regulation game in, the switch worked splendidly. The Yankees won, 4-1, in a game called after a 1-hour, 1-minute rain delay in the bottom of the eighth.

Still, the uncertain forecast and the time change with less than 24 hours’ notice meant a lot of folks who paid for tickets decided to stay home. Perhaps the Yankees will offer those people a chance to exchange their unused tickets, even though the fine print says they don’t have to.

One person who was glad the game was played and probably would have been happy to start it at midnight was Mike Tauchman, the Yankees’ leftfielder and No. 9 hitter.

Tauchman hit the game’s big blow, a two-out, two-run home run to right in the fourth. Moments like those have been rare for Tauchman, who is batting .176 with four home runs in much, much more playing time than anyone could have expected when the Yankees acquired the 28-year-old lefthanded hitter from the Rockies on March 23 for minor-league lefthander Phillip Diehl.

“I haven’t been, obviously, swinging the bat even near the level I want to, so it’s just great to contribute,” Tauchman said. “Any time you can contribute to a win, it’s great.”

Tauchman got the last spot on the 25-man Opening Day roster. He got to be introduced during the Opening Day pregame ceremonies, and if he was listening closely, he could have heard a significant portion of the Yankee Stadium crowd asking, “Mike who?”

But “Mike who” quickly turned into an unlikely regular as the injuries mounted. Yankees fans now know how to pronounce his last name (TOCK-min). His John Sterling home run call: “Tauchman, the sockman!”

The sockman had 69 plate appearances and eight starts, all for Colorado, before this season. He has had 23 starts (in 33 team games) and 85 plate appearances for the Yankees after going 1-for-2 with a walk.

“Baseball’s weird, man,” Tauchman said. “One day you’re not feeling it. One day you’re hot. It’s one of those things.”

Tauchman has been the No. 5 hitter in the Yankees’ order five times. He never started a game higher than sixth for the Rockies.

And all of it probably is going to end sooner rather than later.

“Everybody knows the story about the bad luck that the team’s had injury-wise,” Tauchman said. “So to be one of the guys they trust to keep things going, it’s great. It’s huge.”

You can understand why Tauchman and the other understudies who have kept the Yankees more than afloat probably hope their many injured players take all the time they need to return. Don’t rush, guys! Think about your health first!

But the frontline outfielders are trickling back. Clint Frazier will be activated Monday. Aaron Hicks could make his season debut this weekend, which is also when Giancarlo Stanton might begin a minor-league rehab assignment. Eventually, Aaron Judge will return, too.

And, at some point, Tauchman will be lopped off the Yankees’ roster. But it won’t be Monday, manager Aaron Boone said.

“He’s doing a great job for us, especially defensively,” Boone said. “He’s gotten some big hits for us.”

The Yankees are alive today because of players such as Tauchman and Mike Ford and Thairo Estrada and Cameron Maybin and Gio Urshela. That last one — Urshela — may end up being the one the Yankees try to keep for the whole season. He’s been that good, which is the lottery all these fill-ins are playing. The odds are not in their favor.

The rest of them? Eventually, a pat on the back and a ticket to Scranton.

And a thanks for the memories.

New York Sports