ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Before Friday night, Matt Carpenter hadn’t homered in a major league game since April 30, 2021, while with the Cardinals.
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, providing some production from a lineup that has been hurt by injuries.
He had been granted his release by the Rangers following a stint with their Triple-A affiliate, after two rough seasons with St. Louis, where he played for 11 years.
“Any time you go from your living room to the best team in baseball, it’s pretty good,’’ Carpenter said.
The homer, a solo shot to right in the top of the fourth, was the result of a swing overhaul Carpenter undertook after last year.
“It felt good,’’ Carpenter said. “I grinded really hard in the offseason to try to fix [my swing]. I spent two months playing in Triple-A and the hard work is paying off.”
Even when the Yankees’ lineup returns to health, manager Aaron Boone said Carpenter “potentially” will maintain a role.
Boone said the Yankees were keeping tabs on Carpenter throughout the early part of the season.
“Potentially, we think he still has a lot to offer from the left side of the plate,’’ Boone said. “We’re intrigued by what he can do.”
DJ LeMahieu didn’t play again, but Boone said he would have been able to pinch-hit if needed.
And Aaron Hicks, who was kept out of the lineup for a second straight night due to right hamstring tightness, was also feeling better and could return Saturday.
“I came here [Friday] ready to play,’’ said Hicks, who felt right hamstring tightness during the game Wednesday in The Bronx. “But playing on the turf [at Tropicana Field] is not a comfortable feeling, especially if you’re not used to it.”
With Hicks still sidelined, Aaron Judge started in center field for a second straight game, not ideal considering the turf Hicks referenced. Boone said he intended to have Judge serve as designated hitter either Saturday or Sunday.
LeMahieu’s left wrist discomfort had a “marked improvement” since before the opener of this four-game series on Thursday, when a stint on the injured list seemed quite possible.
The Yankees’ IL already includes Giancarlo Stanton (ankle inflammation), who was at Yankee Stadium on Friday doing some “light hitting and feeling good,” according to Boone.
“I think we avoided a situation there,’’ Boone said. “We’ve been encouraged by the last couple days.’’
Boone added it was “possible” Stanton would miss just the minimum 10 games.
Zack Britton isn’t the only veteran reliever the Yankees are hoping to get back at some point in the second half of the season.
Pitching coach Matt Blake said right-hander Jimmy Cordero, who is rehabbing after Tommy John surgery, 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 looks good, throwing in the mid 90s with that sinker. He’s close to a rehab assignment.”
Cordero had his elbow surgery in March of 2021. He was most recently effective in 2019, when he had a 0.97 WHIP in 36 innings over 30 appearances with the White Sox. He pitched 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, then headed for Tommy John surgery following a bad spring in 2021.
Britton is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session after last year’s elbow surgery on Tuesday and could return to the pen in August. And while Domingo German (back) is being built up as a starter, he could be another option out of the pen by July, if needed.
Chad Green was moved to the 60-day IL, with Tommy John surgery scheduled for next week.
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