Encarnacion went 0-for-4 in his debut, a 3-0 Yankees victory. The 36-year-old slugger said that it was a thrill to wear his new uniform, and he showed exceptional plate discipline in the second inning, working a 10-pitch at-bat against the Rays' Yonny Chirinos before striking out.
"I saw a lot of pitches. I feel good," Encarnacion said. "I just missed a couple pitches that I know I can hit good. But this is part of the game. I’ll get them tomorrow."
Encarnacion, who is wearing No. 30, was acquired with cash considerations from the Mariners on Saturday in exchange for Minor League right-hander Juan Then. In a corresponding move, the Yankees optioned outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Sunday's game.
“I definitely was surprised when it happened, but at the same time, I got super excited that I was going to this city," Encarnacion said. “I’m definitely coming to a winning team, a team that’s on its way to making the playoffs, and that’s why we play. We play to win.”
Adding starting pitching remains the Yankees' priority ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline, but general manager Brian Cashman said that he and his staff lobbied managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner on the idea of Encarnacion making the team incrementally better. The Yankees are picking up approximately $7.5 million of Encarnacion’s remaining $15 million salary for 2019, according to reports.
"Everyone knows we're going to try to upgrade the pitching side of this staff, and that may or may not happen over time," Cashman said. "But in the meantime, we just felt this was too good of an opportunity to pass up, with the quality of the bat and the makeup of the player and how he could fit in our lineup. Probably nobody saw that coming, but I think when the dust settles, people are going to be like, 'Ah, I get it.'"
That bumps Brett Gardner to a reserve role, though Cashman said that speaks to the increased flexibility that Encarnacion's addition can provide.
"We felt it was a real impact bat; not an area of need, but an area that does upgrade us," Cashman said. "I feel like every day Aaron Boone comes to the park, he has a chance to rest somebody of importance. That will benefit us moving forward. We have a chance to be covered injury-wise, because we have alternatives. He can play matchups a lot of different ways, too."
Encarnacion spoke with pitcher Luis Severino immediately after learning about the trade, and they are both excited about the prospect of being teammates.
"I knew I was going to be traded. I didn't know what team," Encarnacion said. "I didn't expect to be traded to the Yankees. There were a lot of other teams that had been talking about it. It surprised me the first time I heard it was the Yankees."
Encarnacion is looking forward to serving as part of a wrecking crew with Judge and Stanton, the latter of whom is expected to travel to New York on Monday and be activated for Tuesday's game.
“I can’t wait to see that," Encarnacion said. "It’s going to be fun. I know we are going to hit a lot of home runs, and we’re going to win a lot of games, too."