TAMPA, Fla. -- Luke Voit, the Majors’ reigning home run leader, will miss at least the first month of the regular season after an MRI exam revealed a torn meniscus in the Yankees slugger’s left knee.
Manager Aaron Boone announced on Saturday that Voit has elected to have surgery on the knee, which will be performed next week in New York. Voit is expected to go three weeks without baseball activity and could rejoin the big league roster in May.
Boone said Jay Bruce will step in as the Yankees’ regular first baseman during Voit’s absence. Bruce was informed early on Saturday that he would be added to the roster; a non-roster invitee this spring, Bruce batted .194 with two home runs and three RBIs in 13 games.
“Luke is a big part of this team, a big part of this offense,” said outfielder Aaron Judge. “He brings a lot to the table, a guy that’s going to hit in the middle of this lineup, hits for power and uses the whole field. He’s a vocal guy in the clubhouse and gets us motivated, so we’re going to be missing out on that for at least a month.”
“I’m extremely excited about making the team,” Bruce said. “Obviously, Luke’s injury is disheartening for everyone. I wish him a speedy and full recovery. I had meniscus surgery in 2014, so I know what he’s going through right now. He’s a big part of this team. My goal is not to come here to replace Luke Voit, it’s to be Jay Bruce and help the team.”
According to Boone, Voit requested an MRI exam on Friday. He was presented with the option of playing through the injury, which prompted attention earlier in the spring.
“Functionally, he was playing, but he was still dealing with some swelling in there after games,” Boone said. “I felt like calendar-wise, it was best to get this over with and taken care of and hopefully put it behind him for the bulk of the season.”
Boone said that he expects Voit will return “considerably sooner” than June.
“Three weeks is not that far off, so we’ll see,” Boone said. “Let’s have the surgery, see how the early days are and then we’ll be able to evaluate.”
Bruce will earn $1.5 million this season. He had an opt-out clause in his Minor League contract that went into effect on Thursday, requiring the Yankees to inform him if he would make the Major League roster or make him available to the other 29 clubs.
“I talked to a lot of people that I trust,” Bruce said. “I felt the best thing for me was to stay away from the club until the decision was made, trying to protect myself. I just sat in my house. It kind of felt like I was in quarantine, honestly. I was waiting on the Yankees – this is where I wanted to be.”
Bruce worked out at Steinbrenner Field on Saturday and is expected to play on Sunday against the Phillies in Clearwater. Bruce, who turns 34 in April, batted .198/.252/.469 with two homers and six RBIs in 32 games for Philadelphia last season. He is a three-time All-Star and a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
“I planned on helping the team when I signed a contract to come here, so I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity,” Bruce said. “I look forward to continuing toward the goal of winning a World Series.”