It’s never a dull day at the Bronx ER. The New York Yankees got first baseman Luke Voit back in the lineup after he recovered from knee surgery, but their coaching staff is in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak after third base coach Phil Nevin and first base coach Reggie Willits both tested positive.
The Yankees confirmed Nevin’s case before Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. After the game, the Yankees got word that Willits and a support staffer also tested positive.
Five other members of the Yankees coaching staff, including pitching coach Matt Blake, are currently under quarantine and are following COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
“We’ve all learned that playing through a pandemic last year, nothing surprises you, but it catches you off guard a little bit,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the Yankees defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in the opening game of a three-game series in Tampa on Tuesday. No players were infected as of Wednesday morning. The Yankees are planning on playing against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday evening with ace Gerrit Cole taking the mound.
After starting the season 9-13, the Yankees went 10-3 in their last 13 games, and have won three consecutive series against the Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, and Washington Nationals.
The scary thing about the current outbreak within the Yankees organization is that all of the coaches and more than 85% of the team is vaccinated. Nevin and Willits both received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during spring training, so this is a breakthrough case.
“Hopefully the fact that we are vaccinated in a pretty large mass will blunt this and allow a number of us to not get anything and keep the symptoms at a minimum if it does get through,” said Boone.
“As a whole, we’re going to press on,” said Cole. “I don’t think this is going to be over for a few years. We’re going to have to be dealing with this kind of thing for a while. And every time these things come up, we’re going to have to adapt and learn, just as a species.”
“We’re doing all we can to stay healthy,” added Boone. “A little bit of a skeleton staff, but nothing we can’t handle.”
Bench coach Carlos Mendoza replaced Nevin as the third base coach. Boone tapped minor league instructor Mario Garza to replace Willits as the first base coach. Boone and the rest of the Yankees have avoided the COVID-19 outbreak, for now. The Yanks’ skipper had minor surgery at the start of spring training to install a pacemaker. Since the insertion of the pacemaker, Boone said he’s feeling the best he has in years.
Pandemic HR Champ Returns
Voit won the pandemic home run title last season with 22 dingers in 56 games. His career slashline is .273/.363./.525 and he hit .277 last season.
The Yankees incurred their first bad beat of the season when Voit suffered a minor knee injury in the first week for spring training. An MRI revealed a minor tear in his meniscus and Voit opted for surgery.
The Yankees struggled to fill the hole at first base. Veteran Jay Bruce didn’t work out and he retired. Boone platooned the versatile DJ LeMahieu and called up Mike Ford from AAA. However, both struggled at the plate. LeMahieu, who won the batting title last season, struggled at the start of the season and hit 100 points below last year’s average. Ford slumped so badly that he shaved his mustache to break his string of bad luck.
Now that the Yankees have Voit back in the lineup and LeMahieu can return to his natural habitat at second base.
“I was a little nervous tonight and I thought I had a little goosebumps before, but it’s the big leagues, and it’s a good feeling to have,” said Voit. “I was just happy to get back with the guys and see everybody and it was kind of craziness, obviously, with everything going on.”
In his first game back, Voit looked a little lost at the plate. He went 0-for-3 and reached base once on a HBP. He took a fastball to his right hand, but rubbed some dirt on it and remained in the game.
“It’s just a little swollen,” Voit said. “I should be good to go tomorrow, but it’s just kind of frustrating because you need your hands for hitting, but you know, I’ll suck it up.”