We are all old enough to remember when there was going to be no place at all on this Yankees team for Luke Voit, no way to fit the 2020 MLB home run champion into the lineup following the trade deadline acquisition of Anthony Rizzo, whose presence had electrified the operation.
But there Voit was at first base and hitting fifth in the order on Sunday, necessarily coming off the injured list for the third time this season upon the news that Rizzo had become the fourth Yankee within the week to test positive for COVID-19.
There is no hint of impropriety here, no evidence of the Yankees playing fast and loose with protocols in place. Aaron Boone, the manager and thus the public face and voice of the organization, seemed befuddled by it all, but this latest stretch has surely taken a pretty bite out of the Apple’s team with Rizzo joining Gerrit Cole, Gary Sanchez and Jordan Montgomery on the restricted list.
So there is an opportunity now, perhaps short-lived, for Voit to stake some sort of claim to at-bats down the stretch out of a crowded bat rack. His shot on Sunday yielded no results in an 0-for-4 return in which he struck out to leave the bases loaded in the third inning and popped up to leave two on in the fifth in a 2-0 defeat to Seattle.
Voit was hardly the only culprit in this one in which he and his playmates apparently caught the dreaded Mets disease while conspiring to go 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position while leaving 11 on through The Bronx afternoon. So it’s onto the road for six split between the Royals and White Sox following the team’s second defeat in the last 10 games and sixth in the last 21.
“Obviously results weren’t there today, I let the team down in two big spots to drive in runs and didn’t do it but I’m glad to be back with the guys, it’s been a really weird year for me,” Voit said. “I’m excited to be back for the playoff push. I feel great. It’s probably the best I’ve felt in a long time.”
Voit began the season on the IL after undergoing surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus. He played 12 games following his May 11 debut before going on the IL again with an injured oblique that sidelined him until June 22. Seventeen games later, he was back on the IL on July 12 with a left knee bone bruise.
In the meantime, the Yankees went through a revolving cast at first base before plucking Rizzo from the Cubs. The rest was going to be pinstriped history until the COVID news that will sideline No. 48 for at least 10 days.
“I’m finally being able to land on my front leg and stay on my knee, so it’s been good. I feel like was hitting balls the way I was last year,” Voit said about his recent rehab work. “Getting back in it, playing again, playing every day, and yep, get the job done the next time my name is called, for sure.”
Rizzo is down and Gleyber Torres, whose revival continued with three hits on Sunday, may be down after leaving the game in the eighth inning with a left thumb sprain he sustained swiping second base in the fourth inning. The 2021 Yankees apparently are not allowed to enjoy nice things.
If there was going to be a job waiting for Voit through much of his rehab, it disappeared upon Rizzo’s acquisition. It did not matter that the 30-year-old righty’s 9.7 at-bats-to-home run rate while leading the majors with 22 long balls a year ago was the best since Barry Bonds’ 8.3 in 2004. Opportunity was no longer knocking. Indeed, there were indications the Yankees had tried to move Voit after getting Rizzo.
But fate has moved its huge hand the way it often does when a team appears to be overflowing with riches. In 2005, the big story was that the Yankees had too many starters for the rotation coming out of spring training with Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright lined up to take the ball. By the end of the summer, the team needed to add Chien-Ming Wang, Shawn Chacon, Aaron Small and Al Leiter to the mix.
The one thing you know is that you never know.
“[The deadline] was a weird spot. Obviously I’m glad [Rizzo] is on the team,” Voit said. “I get it, I haven’t been around a lot this year, I guess there were the trade talks as well and you never know what can happen there.
“But I’m wearing pinstripes today and my job is to come to the field, work my butt off every day and play my heart out so whenever my name is in the lineup, I’m going to give it all.”