Luke Voit’s return to Yankee lineup almost delayed after coaches test positive for COVID

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Luke Voit impatiently waited 40 days. The Yankees slugger did the tedious rehab to get his knee back in shape after surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus, worked on his swing and defense down in Scranton and played a week’s worth of rehab with the goal of playing in Tuesday night’s game. He got to Tampa to rejoin the team and found out it may not happen.

“I was just happy to get back with the guys and see everybody and it was kind of craziness, obviously, with everything going on,” Voit said of joining the team just as they found out that several coaches were suspected of having COVID-19. “So it’s kind of a damper on it. But once we knew we were gonna play, it’s just kind of jump in, and let’s go.

“I was a little nervous tonight. And I thought I had a little goosebumps before, but it’s the big leagues, and it’s a good feeling to have,” Voit said. “Obviously, hopefully we nip it in the bud with this COVID stuff. And the team’s doing a really good job of trying to kill it. So, hopefully nothing else comes about the situation.”

Voit was one of the players who voted to go ahead and play after Yankees coach Phil Nevin confirmed a breakthrough COVID-19 case, meaning he was fully vaccinated but still contracted the disease. Several coaches and support staff members were placed in quarantine based on contact tracing and after the game first base coach Reggie Willits and an unnamed support staffer were also confirmed as being breakthrough COVID cases.

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The Yankees beat the Rays 3-1 Tuesday night and were expecting to play again Wednesday even as they awaited further test results.

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Voit went 0-for-3 and was hit by a pitch in his season debut. He took a fastball on the side of his right hand and wrist in his second at-bat. Voit remained in the game and said he’d be available Wednesday.

“It’s just a little swollen,” Voit said. “I should be good to go tomorrow, but it’s just kind of frustrating because you need your hands for hitting, but you know, I’ll suck it up.”

Voit led the majors in home runs in the coronavirus pandemic-abbreviated, 60-game 2020 season with 22. He is also hit .277/.338./.610 with 52 RBI, 17 walks and 54 strikeouts over 234 plate appearances.

“He’s a force in this league you know, he’s not only a dangerous hitter, but a really good hitter and just a guy that adds some obvious length to our lineup,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s somebody that goes right into that middle of the lineup and is a really good hitter with tremendous power with plate discipline. I think it’s a big deal to get him back in there.”

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