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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Yankees get a stern dose of reality and perspective

Luis Severino of the Yankees looks on before

Luis Severino of the Yankees looks on before a game against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

You start with concern for the six Yankees players — for the human beings — who manager Aaron Boone confirmed as having tested positive for COVID-19, a disease that through Friday was responsible for the death of 606,190 people in the United States, according to the CDC.

Then you think about whether a baseball game should be played when one of the teams is in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Then you mull what it means to the roster and the Yankees’ chances of winning against the first-place Red Sox, a team they haven’t beaten in seven tries this season after Friday night’s 4-0 loss at Yankee Stadium.

Then you worry about what it means for the Yankees as they approach the July 30 trade deadline in a season that hasn’t gone at all as they had hoped.

"Business as usual," Gerrit Cole said on Friday afternoon about the Yankees’ mindset going into the game.

Sad but true.

The phrase "the new normal" has been thrown around so much over the past year and a half that it — like the annoying phrase "abundance of caution" — has lost any meaning.

What was wrong with the regular amount of caution? And what’s normal about six members of a 26-man roster ending up on the COVID-19 injured list before the Yankees played their first game after the All-Star break?

None of this is normal. None of this is OK. Still, we have to deal with it as best we can. That’s what the stiff-upper-lip Yankees were trying to do without Aaron Judge, Gio Urshela and four other players because of COVID-19, and without Luke Voit because of an old-fashioned knee injury.

Cole said the players aren’t focused on the bigger picture of COVID-19 being in their midst.

"We’re getting after our preparation, getting ready for the game," he said. "Shaking hands with the newcomers."

They probably didn’t actually shake hands with call-ups Trey Amburgey, Chris Gittens, Hoy Park, Greg Allen and Rob Brantly. Fist bumps, maybe. A wave from across the room is still safest.

All but Brantly appeared in the game as the Yankees were held to three hits by three Boston pitchers.

"That’s our reality right now," Boone said before the game. "We’ve got to go make the best of it . . . I’m not going to sit and stew on it. We’ve got to go out and play. Play the ballgame and try and go beat a good team."

That was not happening, not with a lineup that included Amburgey and Gittens instead of Judge and Voit, that had lefthanded-hitting Rougned Odor third and Brett Gardner sixth against lefthander Eduardo Rod-riguez, that looked overmatched in its two chances to tie it after falling behind 3-0 in the second.

Those moments came with No. 9 hitter Tim Locastro at the plate in the fifth (he struck out) and Park — pinch hitting for Locastro — in the seventh (he grounded to first on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues and then went out to play right, a position he had never played as a professional).

Goodness knows who the Yankees will have in the lineup on Saturday. Cole will be on the mound in his first outing since a 129-pitch shutout against the Astros in Houston a week ago. Seems like more than a week ago. A lot’s happened since.

Boone said none of the players who went on the COVID-19 IL are seriously ill.

"We’ve had a couple of them that one feels like they have a cold," he said, straddling the line between privacy and information. "One didn’t feel good. One day, one was a little ill. Another day, some are totally asymptomatic. A little bit of everything, I would say. No one’s gotten really ill."

You hope it stays that way. You hope there are no more positive tests among the Yankees, that the season continues without any further disruption, that the Yankees can declare themselves as buyers or sellers before the deadline. Stuff like that.

When you root for a team, it often can feel as if every game is life and death.

Spoiler alert: It’s not.

New York Sports