NEW YORK -- Zack Britton recorded a Major League-leading eight saves while filling in for Aroldis Chapman as the Yankees’ closer, but the left-hander’s first outing after being pushed back in the pecking order did not go nearly as well.
Saddled with the loss in the Yanks’ 4-2 defeat on Wednesday, Britton was placed on the 10-day injured list on Thursday with a strained left hamstring. The club also optioned infielder/outfielder Miguel Andújar and recalled right-handers Ben Heller and Miguel Yajure from its alternate training site.
Britton sustained the injury on his final pitch of the eighth inning, which the Rays’ Willy Adames laced into right field for a run-scoring single.
“It seemed like he tightened up, and then he felt it a little bit on the last couple pitches of the inning,” manager Aaron Boone said.
The 32-year-old Britton also committed an error that sparked Tampa Bay’s rally in the eighth, dropping a throw from first baseman Luke Voit while covering first base. Brandon Lowe walked, and after a fielder’s choice, pinch-hitter Mike Brosseau and Adames lined run-scoring hits.
When Boone went to the mound to make a pitching change, Britton left wordlessly, appearing to wince as he walked toward the dugout. With Britton joining Kyle Higashioka (strained right oblique), Tommy Kahnle (Tommy John surgery), Aaron Judge (strained right calf) and Giancarlo Stanton (strained left hamstring) on the IL, Boone said that he believes the accelerated Summer Camp timeline may have had an effect.
“It's a quicker ramp-up into the intensity of a Major League environment, whether it's pitcher, hitter, position [player], whatever it is,” Boone said. “We understand we’re playing 60 games and the urgency of everything, but we’re also trying to be mindful of players’ health and building them up as best as possible.”
With Britton out, the club will rely on Chad Green (0.71 ERA) and Adam Ottavino (1.08 ERA) in the late innings. The Yankees also think highly of Jonathan Loaisiga (2.77 ERA), who pitched 1 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings on Wednesday.
Andújar has struggled to find his place on the roster despite increased defensive versatility. The 25-year-old has produced two hits in 21 at-bats.
“It’s a challenging thing, especially for a young player that missed pretty much the entire  season,” Boone said. “Sometimes you’ve got to go through some struggles or some trial and error to figure that out. It doesn't mean it can't start to happen at some point.”
Cool with Cole
Gerrit Cole was steamed after being removed in the seventh inning on Wednesday, saying that he felt strong enough to continue after 109 pitches. Boone has no issue with the hurler’s intensity and felt no reason to speak further with the right-hander about that outburst.
“I never get upset when guys care about their craft,” Boone said. “He’s as good a competitor as there is. He's an ace in the sport, and I love the fact that he wants the ball. Sometimes that spills over with some emotion when there's a lot on the line, so I really don't have an issue with it.”
Higashioka has resumed swinging the bat and is feeling no discomfort, which has permitted him to ramp up his intensity. Erik Kratz has been serving as the backup to Gary Sánchez in Higashioka’s absence; the Yankees have not provided a timetable for Higashioka’s return.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Higashioka said. “It's something that gradually got worse and worse, and then it came to a point where I had to make a decision whether I wanted to risk ending my season, because it's such a short season. I'd either risk really hurting it and potentially ending my season or taking a couple of weeks off.”
Count on it
Yajure has been issued No. 89, and when he sees action, it will be the first time the number has been worn in a Major League game.
This date in Yankees history
Aug. 20, 1938: Lou Gehrig hit his 23rd and final career grand slam in the first inning of an 11-3 win over the Athletics at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. The 23 career slams stood as a Major League record for nearly 74 years.
Left-hander J.A. Happ (1-1, 6.39 ERA) aims to build upon his solid return to the rotation on Friday as the Yankees travel across borough lines to open the Subway Series with the Mets at 7:10 p.m. ET. Last time out, Happ logged a victory with 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a 4-2 win over the Red Sox. The Mets will send right-hander Rick Porcello (1-3, 5.76 ERA) to the mound.