MOOSIC — Luke Voit had been in the New York Yankees organization for a whole four days before the big-league club called his name. In one of the biggest spots of the season, no less.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders first baseman found out he had been promoted in the middle of an Aug. 1 game against the Rochester Red Wings. He was pulled before his eighth-inning at-bat, sent to the clubhouse to pack up his bags and headed to Fenway Park to face the first-place Boston Red Sox the very next day.
Fast forward two weeks and Voit is back with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders after a five-game, 16-at-bat stint with the Yankees. With Giancarlo Stanton taking over the designated-hitter duties as he nurses a tight hamstring, Voit was the subject of a roster crunch and was optioned back to Triple-A.
Despite limited at-bats and some “unlucky” bounces at the plate, Voit trusts in what he has done for his new team and the conversations with the Yankees coaching staff. He’ll be ready the next time they call his name.
“Those guys took me in like I had been there the whole year,” Voit said. “The clubhouse was awesome. Didn’t feel like I was an outcast or anything and those guys took me under their wing and kind of showed me around. The guys made it comfortable to where if I needed any help around town, or that kind of thing, I could always go to them. And I liked the coaches too. All of the coaches were upfront with me about what was going on.
“I didn’t play that much and I get it, especially with Stanton being a little injured, too, that kind of takes the DH role from me. They needed more flexibility just with defense and I totally get it.”
Voit credits the players in the Yankees clubhouse with helping him adjust to life in pinstripes in the middle of one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports relatively easily.
Coming from the St. Louis Cardinals, the first baseman has had a taste of big-time rivalries before. He’s played against the Chicago Cubs. Even one of his five career home runs came against the National League Central rival.
But his new rivalry against the Red Sox was on another level. He had been with the team for just over a week by the time the Red Sox swept the Yankees and still describes the series as “heartbreaking.”
“It was pretty cool to get that (call) and try to do that,” Voit said. “I had some good at-bats, too. I just kind of got unlucky and hit the ball hard — that’s baseball. It’s pretty awesome, that rivalry, man. Coming from the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry. It almost kind of tops that, just with the intensity from the first pitch to the last pitch. If there’s a clutch situation, you can’t hear anything except the noise going on at the stadium. You know, they don’t want you to do good, so they’re going to help their team in whatever way they can possible.”
Voit’s reinsertion to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lineup does put RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell in a slight hole. Three of his four best hitters are first baseman so he will have to get creative to make everything work.
For now, Voit and Mike Ford will likely alternate between first base and designated hitter, which is what the plan was before Tuesday’s doubleheader was changed into a single nine-inning game due to rain. Ryan McBroom will see significant time in the outfield.
Ford could also play some third base in a pinch.
“We’re happy to have him in our lineup for sure,” Mitchell said of Voit. “It adds a little more power to our lineup, in the middle, which is a good thing to have, and probably a little more protection to Ford, having him hit behind him. We’re happy to have him back. I thought he hit the ball well while he was here, briefly. Even though he didn’t have a lot to show for it, he had some hard balls that were, like, to the deep part of the park.”
While Voit’s time with the Yankees was short, it’s what’s driving him to get back.
Not to mention, he’s coming from the Cardinals, who were on the outside looking in, in regards to the playoffs, to the team with the second-best record in baseball in the Yankees.
“Hopefully, if I get a chance to go back up, that will mean another opportunity,” Voit said. “I only got to face left-handed starting pitchers and I can hit both. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities. Guys will be healthier.
“(Yankees manager Aaron Boone) still gave me chances so I can’t sit back here and say I didn’t get an opportunity because I got (16) at-bats. But it’s a tough game when you’re not playing every day and you just have to find ways to try and get your hits and stuff.”
Cessa heading up
Mitchell’s plans of a six-man rotation were scrapped once he told Luis Cessa Tuesday afternoon that the right-hander was being promoted to fill CC Sabathia’s spot in the Yankees rotation.
Cessa will make a spot start for Sabathia, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list with right knee inflammation. The 26-year-old was scheduled to pitch Monday’s RailRiders game before the rainout and was then left off of the rotation chart posted in the clubhouse after the rainout. At the time, Mitchell indicated that a promotion could be in his near future.
“Yup, as far as we know that’s the case right now,” Mitchell said of a five-man rotation. “We’re not getting anybody. (Infielder Ricky) Surum is up. We needed somebody in the middle because if somebody got hurt in the middle we’d be in trouble.”
Surum, an infielder who comes from Double-A Trenton, and Voit were the only two players added to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster on Tuesday. That left the RailRiders with only six relievers on their roster heading into their game against the Indianapolis Indians.
Injuries piling up
With Tuesday’s game knocking the RailRiders down to 20 games left in the season, the RailRiders are starting to get hit with the injury bug.
While no players were placed on the disabled list Monday or Tuesday, middle infielder L.J. Mazzilli has been sidelined with an infection on his knee and Mark Payton sported a giant ice wrap around his waist on Monday to help heal a bruise from sliding in a recent series.
Mitchell said that Mazzilli was getting better and Payton still played Tuesday.
“He had an infection in his knee — like a staph infection or something,” Mitchell said. “Yeah, it got swollen and was really bugging him like two days ago, so he was actually unavailable if we played yesterday. I heard he was better today. He’s better. We have some guys bruised up but that’s normal.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle