Smooth fit: McCutchen moves right into Yankees’ lineup
NEW YORK (AP) — It took a while, but 9-month-old Steel McCutchen seemed fine with Dad’s new look.
A day after being traded from San Francisco, the former NL MVP stepped back into a playoff race Saturday. He drew a warm ovation at Yankee Stadium when he was introduced as the leadoff hitter and right fielder, then struck out in his first two-bats against Detroit.
At least his grooming got off to a smooth start. Adhering to the Yankees’ strict policy on facial hair, he shaved off his familiar beard before the debut.
His son got a good, close view.
“I just cut it and held him. I was worried about his reaction,” McCutchen said. “He stared at me for about five minutes and touched all on my face and he seemed to be OK with it.”
McCutchen spent his first nine seasons in Pittsburgh — the Steel City — and was traded to San Francisco in January. The five-time All-Star was hitting .255 with 15 home runs, 55 RBIs and 13 stolen bases when the Giants sent him to the Yankees.
“I feel like a lot of baseball players want to at least throw the pinstripes on for who knows how long just to say you did it,” McCutchen said.
“I’m on a new team and we have an opportunity to do big things here so in a sense, yes, I am nervous, but at the same time I look at it as a good thing because that means I care about it,” he said.
Acquired for two minor leaguers on the final day trades could be made for postseason-eligible players, McCutchen should see the lion’s share of time in right while slugger Aaron Judge continues to recover from a broken right wrist.
Judge has been on the mend since being hit by a pitch on July 26, a process that has gone slower than originally expected. New York had hoped Clint Frazier could step in for Judge at some point, but the young outfielder is still shelved with post-concussion migraines.
“We’ve been looking to reinforce this outfield situation as the timeframes on Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier were obviously much longer than anticipated,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “It’s a nice welcome addition. It’s a much-needed addition.”
McCutchen wasn’t the only newcomer.
The Yankees got shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria in a trade with Pittsburgh late Friday night. Didi Gregorius, New York’s starter at the spot, has been out since Aug. 20 because of a bruised heel.
“He’s a defensive wizard that gives us some protection, obviously we’re down our shortstop,” Cashman said. “We felt that it was a good grab to reinforce our depth and our insurance and an alternative choice.”
Joining McCutchen in Saturday’s lineup was catcher Gary Sanchez, who returned from the disabled list almost six weeks after he was shelved with a recurring groin injury.
“Really good to write those guys back in there as we work our way to getting a little more healthy today,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Just excited to have some really important additions back in our lineup.”
Sanchez missed 20 games from June 25 to July 19 with a strained right groin and then another 36 since landing back on the DL on July 24.
He was widely criticized for a perceived lack of hustle on two key plays in a 7-6 loss at Tampa Bay a day earlier, one where lackadaisical baserunning may have cost New York a chance to the tie the game in the ninth inning.
Sanchez was not in the lineup the following day, and MRI results released soon after revealed that he had re-aggravated his groin injury.
An All-Star last year, Sanchez is hitting just .188 with 14 home runs in 66 games this season.
“I feel like not only is he healthy, but physically right now in a really good place and hopefully he can get back there and really start to impact the middle of our lineup,” Boone said.