Yankees manager Aaron Boone has had three COVID attacks and numerous injuries to work around, but that was easy compared to what’s next.
The Yankees lineup has needed juggling for most of the year, with key players going down with injuries and several more sustaining the effects of the COVID virus, but that was nothing compared to the problem he’s facing.
When a player goes down and is sidelined for any length of time, all Aaron Boone needed to do was stand by while Brian Cashman filled the spot on the Yankees’ active roster.
More often than not, the arriving player was immediately inserted into the lineup, and life went on to the round of games on the Yankees’ schedule.
Replacement players, like Rougned Odor, Tyler Wade, and for a shorter span, Andrew Velazquez, Estevan Florial, Ryan Lamarre, and Greg Allen received more playing time than they ever could have hoped for, and the Yankees began to roll.
Yankees Changing Landscape
However, the landscape has changed with Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, and Luke Voit returning to the team, leaving Aaron Boone with a surplus of players.
Check that because there’s never a surplus of anything in baseball, and all of the players mentioned above will be needed if the Yankees continue their winning ways and on into the playoffs.
The distribution of playing time, though, is another matter, and suddenly Aaron Boone finds himself having to contend with a clash of egos, and some who can rightfully claim to be in the Yankees’ lineup based on their performance during the absence of the returning players.
Fortunately for Boone, at least one of those players is accustomed to being a role player, and Tyler Wade can be eliminated as a source of discontent in the Yankees’ clubhouse.
But already, one Yankees’ player has gone public, pleading his case for adequate playing time.
Luke Voit was blunt in stating:
As is his way, Aaron Boone did not overreact, saying in effect, he always likes to see his players fighting for playing time.
Yankees: Boone Finds A Compromise
For tonight, at least, the Yankees’ lineup against the Minnesota Twins is more than a compromise, and maybe a precursor to a team Yankees will field more often than not.
Odor (2B), Wade (3B), and Voit (DH) are all playing (weather permitting), as are Giancarlo Stanton (RF), Anthony Rizzo (1B), and Velazquez (SS).
As part of the compromise, though, Torres, Gary Sanchez, and Urshela will be available only off the bench.
Aaron Boone may have worked his way through that maze, but yesterday Andrew Heaney, who was almost a given to lose his spot in the rotation, turned in seven innings of two-hit ball, allowing only one earned run while enabling the Yankees to sweep Boston.
Facing a similar conundrum within the starting staff, Boone must now pick and choose between Heaney, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon, Nester Cortes Jr., and Luis Gil, who just worked his way into the all-time major league record book.
According to Elias, Gil is the only major league pitcher since 1893 — the first season the mound was 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate — to throw at least 4 ²/₃ scoreless innings in each of his first three appearances.
Gerrit Cole is a given, of course, but short of the Yankees going to a six-man rotation, what is Aaron Boone and his pitching coach Matt Blake to do?
Aaron Boone: Tested As The Great Communicator
Typically, most would say – what manager wouldn’t relish being in Boone’s position, but that ignores the human element of coping with.
Each of his players is different, and we can go around the horn from someone like Gleyber Torres, who has to know he’s in the Yankee’s doghouse for a good reason, to Voit, who makes an excellent argument for himself, all the way around to a journeyman like Heaney, who knows one good start will not cut it, and he is facing severe competition.
Meanwhile, the Yankees, operating on a 21-5 run, know the Red Sox will figure out a way to get themselves back in this thing (Chris Sale), the Oakland A’s are not going away, and the Toronto Blue Jays are lurking behind them, capable of making a run of their own.
This is why Boone told the New Jersey Herald, “We’re in control of our season,’’ manager Aaron Boone said after the Yankees’ doubleheader sweep of the Sox on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. “But we really haven’t done anything yet.’’
Aaron Boone is in control of something else, too. When he writes a player’s name in his lineup tonight, that player knows there is no assurance he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow – and he’d better produce.
The danger in that, however, is “that player,” whoever he is, will put himself before the team, destroying what the Yankees have built over the last month or so.
Together with his coaching staff, Boone will watch each player closely to monitor each at-bat and what situation the at-bat occurs, regardless of whether or not the Yankees win.
Yankees: More Roster Crunches To Come
Further down the line is a second rehab start by Corey Kluber; this one is much more positive than his first. The Yankees are thinking one more start to get Kluber’s pitch count up to around 85, and he too will join the mix.
We can only deduce that unless a player gets outrageously hot or cold, the Yankees lineup will vary from day to day, and infield regularity will be non-existent except for DJ LeMahieu.
In any event, the Yankees will seek their seventh straight win with Jameson Taillon starting against the Twins John Gant (4-6, 3.49) in the first of four at the Stadium, before hitting the road for nine games against Atlanta (2), Oakland (3), and the Angels (4).
It’s crunch time, and as Boone said, “We have a long way to go” – but who would have thought when the Yankees were ten games behind the Red Sox – they would be as Boone also said – “in control”?
Here’s What Readers Are Saying…
Michael FranklinHe’s also had a bunch of angry fans to deal with
Susan Abbott Well let’s face it. We all love Luke. But Rizzo is clearly a better defensive first baseman. We’re lucky to have some incredible utility players like Roughneck Odor, Tyler Wade, and of course LaMachine. Boone should continue (and should be allowed to) follow his gut. It has served us well this month.