ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Prior to Friday night, Matt Carpenter had not homered in a major league game with the Cardinals since April 30, 2021.
But in just his second game since signing with the Yankees, the 36-year-old went deep in a 2-0 win over Tampa Bay.
Carpenter has reached base twice in each of his first two games with the Yankees and provided some production from a lineup hurt by injuries.
He was released by Rangers after a stint with their Triple-A affiliate after two tough seasons at St. Louis, where he played for 11 years.
“Anytime you go from your living room to the best baseball team, it’s pretty good,” Carpenter said.
The homer, a solo shot straight to the top of the fourth, was the result of a swing overhaul Carpenter made after last year.
“It felt good,” said Carpenter. “I was grinding really hard during the off-season to try and fix it [my swing]. I played at Triple-A for two months and the hard work is paying off.”
Even if the Yankees lineup gets healthy again, manager Aaron Boone said Carpenter “possibly” will retain a role.
Boone said the Yankees kept tabs on Carpenter early in the season.
“Potentially, we think he has a lot left to offer from the left side of the plate,” Boone said. “We are fascinated by what he can do.”
DJ LeMahieu again didn’t play, but Boone said he could have pinch hit if needed.
And Aaron Hicks, who was ruled out of the lineup for the second straight night with a right hamstring strain, was also feeling better and was able to return on Saturday.
“I came here [Friday] ready to play,” said Hicks, who felt a hamstring strain during Wednesday’s game in the Bronx. “But play on the grass [at Tropicana Field] is not a comfortable feeling, especially if you are not used to it.”
With Hicks still sidelined, Aaron Judge started in midfield for a second straight game, which wasn’t ideal given the turf Hicks was pointing to. Boone said he intends to use the judge as the designated batsman on either Saturday or Sunday.
LeMahieu’s left wrist condition had “improved significantly” since the start of that four-game streak on Thursday, when a stint on the injury list seemed a possibility.
The Yankees’ IL already includes Giancarlo Stanton (ankle infection), who Boone said “took a few easy hits and felt good” at Yankee Stadium on Friday.
“I think we avoided a situation there,” Boone said. “The last few days have encouraged us.”
Boone added it was “possible” that Stanton would just miss the 10 or more games.
Zack Britton isn’t the only veteran helper the Yankees are hoping to get back sometime in the second half of the season.
Pitching coach Matt Blake said right-hander Jimmy Cordero, who is rehabilitating after undergoing surgery by Tommy John, could be a part of the bullpen in the next month or so.
“He’ll be in the mix here soon,” Blake said of the 30-year-old. “He’s good looking and throwing that sinker in the mid 90’s. He is about to go to rehab.”
Cordero had his elbow surgery in March 2021. His most recent success came in 2019 when he had a .97 WHIP in 36 innings of 30 appearances with the White Sox. He fared poorly in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, with a 1.58 WHIP and a 6.08 ERA in 26 ²/₃ innings for the White Sox, and then made his way to the 2021 after a poor spring Surgery by Tommy John.
Britton is due to give his first bullpen session on Tuesday after having elbow surgery last year and could return to pen in August. And while Domingo German (back) is being set up as a starter, he could be another option out of the pen by July if needed.
Chad Green has been moved to 60 Day IL and Tommy John’s surgery is scheduled for next week.