Yanks' bullpen gets boost with Britton back

September 2nd, 2020

NEW YORK -- The struggling Yankees bullpen received a much-needed boost prior to Tuesday’s game against the Rays, welcoming left-hander back from a stint on the injured list.

Britton worked a perfect eighth inning of the Yankees’ 5-3 victory over the Rays, striking out one while setting up for closer Aroldis Chapman. It was Britton’s first appearance since Aug. 19, when he sustained a left hamstring strain. 

“I felt pretty good,” Britton said. “I was a little rusty because it's been [13] days since I've been in a game. Overall, it was good to get back out there in a close game and preserve that for Chappy and get the win. It was a good first time out.”

The 32-year-old Britton went 8-for-8 in save opportunities while filling in for Chapman, who opened the season on the COVID-19 injured list. Over 10 appearances, Britton pitched to a 2.00 ERA, averaging one strikeout per inning.

“He's been able to keep his arm going basically the whole time; it hasn't been very long,” Boone said. “Talking to him after his two bullpens, both times he said, ‘My arm feels really good. I feel like I'm throwing the ball exactly where I need to.’”

The Yankees also activated catcher Kyle Higashioka from the injured list prior to Tuesday’s game. Higashioka opened the season as the backup to Gary Sánchez and has not played in a big league game since Aug. 5 due to a right oblique strain.

In corresponding moves, the club optioned right-hander Miguel Yajure to the alternate training site -- one day after the 22-year-old fired three scoreless innings while becoming the sixth Yankee to make his Major League debut this season -- and designated infielder Jordy Mercer for assignment.

The Yankees will carry three catchers for the time being, as they cannot return Erik Kratz to the alternate site without exposing him to waivers. Boone said that he envisions platooning Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade at shortstop while the team waits for Gleyber Torres to return from strains to his left hamstring and quadriceps.

“I think there’s a chance in the next day or two [Torres] could head over to Scranton and start playing in some games and getting some at-bats,” Boone said.

Tipping point

One day after Gerrit Cole mentioned that he may have tipped pitches to the Braves and Rays in his last two outings, Boone said that the Yanks’ coaches are always looking into that possibility with their pitchers.

“I’d like to think that we’re as vigilant as it comes with that kind of stuff,” Boone said. “That’s something we’re always trying to stay on top of.”

Cole’s 28-start unbeaten streak ended last week with a loss at Atlanta, and Tampa Bay made hard contact against the ace on Monday, when he surrendered homers to Ji-Man Choi and Kevin Kiermaier. Ten of the 15 batted balls against Cole registered exit velocities of 95 mph or greater, and Cole said that he plans to address the possible issue prior to his next start.

“I think we all pretty much tip every game in one way or another. But how many pitches a game?” Cole said. “Some games, maybe the other team has an edge on four, five pitches; some days it might be more. Some hitters look for it, some hitters don't. There's several different factors that are contributing to the certainty with which guys are getting their swings off in certain counts.”

Goin’ deep

Mike Tauchman cracked a career-high 13 homers last season, but the outfielder has had difficulty barreling balls this year. Entering play on Tuesday, Tauchman was one of five American Leaguers to have at least 79 plate appearances with no home runs, and the only outfielder.

“I feel like I’m battling, but as of late, the results haven't been there,” Tauchman said. “I'm working hard, and I think I've taken some good steps in the last couple days to get back to bringing a little bit more in the batter's box.”

This date in Yankees history

Sept. 1, 1961: Elston Howard, Yogi Berra and Moose Skowron cracked consecutive two-out, ninth-inning singles as the Yankees edged the Tigers, 1-0. Whitey Ford, Bud Daley and Luis Arroyo combined on the shutout.

Up next

Left-hander Jordan Montgomery will be on the mound Wednesday as the Yankees conclude their three-game series with the Rays at 7:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV. Montgomery is coming off five solid innings against the Mets on Friday, a start in which he received a no-decision.