Zack Britton said he is ready.
The Yankees said wait and see and maybe. The lefty reliever who has worked his way back from elbow reconstruction surgery last October is done with minor league rehab appearances. The veteran went through all this for one reason; to help pitch this team to a World Series.
“I have the opportunity to and I want to help the team win,” Britton said before Wednesday night’s game against the Pirates at Yankee Stadium. “We have a really good team. I mean it doesn’t impact my future. I’m healthy. I know if I’m healthy, the future for me will be fine. The reason why I kind of push things is because I want to pitch this year for this team to help them win for no other reason. So there’s no benefit for me personally, other than the fact that maybe I can have an impact on a World Series championship team. That’s really the only goal for me at this stage of my career. I’ve gotten my contract. I am 34 years old. My reasons are much different now than when I was younger. I want to win a ring that’s why I pushed this to come back and be an option for the team. So whether or not they activate me that’s up to them.”
The Yankees are being indecisive about their roster moves. Britton made it clear he’s not going to waste time in the minor leagues. He’s a veteran who knows his body and his pitches, he’s just wasting bullets down there.
Aaron Boone seemed to say the indecision is related to how they will trim their roster going forward. They do plan to activate right-hander Scott Effross on Wednesday.
“We’re just in a little bit of a pitching crunch right now,” Boone said. “As far as needing the protection for German back into the rotation on Saturday, not being.. probably having his full allotment of pitches. So we just got to see where we are from a coverage standpoint, day by day.”
Britton is in the last year of his contract with the Yankees. He made just 22 appearances last season before he was shut down to have Tommy John surgery. Britton has 154 career saves and had a 1.89 ERA in 2020, his last full season.
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While the Yankees may not have been counting on Britton, he would have been much needed veteran help for a bullpen that has already been stretched thin by injuries to Chad Green and Michael King. The bullpen has struggled over the last month, giving up seven runs Tuesday night against a struggling Pirates squad.
“I think it’s trying to lock down what are the best roles, positions, situations and matchups for them,” Boone said. “I think we’re gonna have to do it on a matchup type basis where let’s get these guys in for these two hitters that we think are absolutely the best situation for them. Again, I think we have a lot of really good things happening down there and a lot of really good options and different guys coming back into the mix that can help. But sorting out and locking down those roles and where they’re best equipped is going to be important here in these final days.”
DJ LeMahieu went out to hit on the field for the second straight day. The infielder said his toe felt OK after hitting for the first time on Tuesday, but the Yankees are not sure when he will return.
“It’s just a tricky situation,” Boone said. “You know, it’s like when do you dive all in on, let it rip? You know? Because does that ultimately start the setback? So what’s the timeline? What’s the best way to go about this work? I don’t really have that answer. And then eventually the rubbers gonna meet the road and we’re going to find out. But we got to continue to try and progress to get.”
Boone said that LeMahieu is staying in shape and then will have to finish the season managing the pain. LeMahieu “probably,” will not be 100% this season.
Matt Carpenter, who is out with a fractured foot, was cleared to start putting weight on it and was able to track pitches on Tuesday. He will need another imaging to clear him to begin full baseball activities. Andrew Benintendi’s wrist injury is “progressing,” but the outfielder is currently under the weather. Boone admitted the best case scenario is for them to be back by the playoffs.
Aaron Hicks left the clubhouse early before Wednesday night’s game with cold/flu-like symptoms.