Notes: Rizzo close; Velazquez lives dream

August 17th, 2021

NEW YORK --  appeared on the field at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, performing conditioning exercises and taking ground balls for the first time since being diagnosed with COVID-19.

The first baseman said that he was “knocked out” for about a week by the virus, but Rizzo said that he feels better than expected and he is looking forward to being activated from the COVID-19 injured list during this homestand -- possibly as soon as Wednesday.

“I just need to see pitches, really,” Rizzo told reporters. “I’ve gotten a little bit of time to just bounce right back the next couple days, so I’m not too concerned -- especially this late in the year. I’ve put in all the work, it’s kind of just muscle memory now.”

Rizzo last played on Aug. 7 against the Mariners, describing his symptoms as “really tired and achy.” Rizzo initially attributed that to an eventful week that included his trade from the Cubs and several flights, but he was tested after he realized that he was missing his senses of smell and taste.

“I’d just get up and try to move around and get tired,” Rizzo said. “Everything hurt; I felt like my age caught up to me a little bit. Overall, I feel like I started turning the corner a few days ago. The last two, three days, I’ve been just feeling really good.”

The Yankees had Rizzo go through cardiac testing on Monday in New York. Manager Aaron Boone said that he does not believe Rizzo will need a Minor League rehab assignment before returning to the lineup.

“We'll see if it's [Wednesday] or the next day,” Boone said. “We’ve got to see where we're at today, as far as how he's doing, how his response is to the uptick in workload. He's going to take ground balls, he's probably going to hit in between games. I know he's planning on standing in on some bullpens and tracking [pitches]. So we'll see.”

Rizzo was off to a hot start with the Yankees, slashing .281/.400/.563 with three homers and six RBIs in nine games after being acquired with cash considerations in exchange for Minor Leaguers Kevin Alcántara and Alexander Vizcaino on July 29.

“It’s tough building the relationship with the guys and then kind of having to stall that,” Rizzo said. “Watching the games on TV, it’s a lot more stressful than being in a dugout and playing in the games. But the guys have been playing amazing, just from a fan looking [on]. There’s just no quit in the guys and the team. It’s been amazing.”

Dreams come true
Andrew Velazquez grew up in the Morris Park section of the Bronx, wearing uniform No. 2 on his youth league teams and practicing the jump that Derek Jeter made his defensive trademark.

As Velazquez legged out a two-run single in the second inning of the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Yankee Stadium -- a key knock in the Yanks’ 5-3 victory over the Red Sox -- the 27-year-old said that he’d lived a dream.

“I’ve had time to think about that,” Velazquez said. “In that situation, you’re just trying to do a job and help the team win. That’s our rival in the league. We’re trying to get wins. I’m just happy I could contribute a little.”

Velazquez also made a sharp play defensively, chasing down Hunter Renfroe for the final out of the first inning, completing a 5-3-6 putout. Velazquez joked that first baseman Luke Voit “led me over there like a quarterback and I was a slot receiver.”

“We saw this in Spring Training,” Boone said. “The coaching staff was kind of like, ‘We like this guy and what he can do.’ Defensively, versatility, speed. In Triple-A this year, he's put together a really strong season and earned this opportunity. It's good to see him come up here and contribute.”

Velazquez said that he had about 11 friends and family members on hand Tuesday, witnessing his first RBIs in a Yankees uniform from Section 214.

“It was a combination of a lot of things,” Velazquez said. “A lot of hard times in baseball, but a lot of good, too. Just that one hit alone made everything worth it.”

This date in Yankees history
Aug. 17, 1933: Lou Gehrig broke an all-time record for consecutive games played by appearing in his 1,308th straight contest, surpassing Everett Scott’s previous mark of 1,307. Gehrig’s streak would reach 2,130 games.