Yankees' Luke Voit: 'I Deserve to Play Just as Much' as Anthony Rizzo When 1B Returns

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 18, 2021

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 17: Luke Voit #59 of the New York Yankees hits a home run against the Boston Red Sox in the second inning during game two of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on August 17, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
Adam Hunger/Getty Images

New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit said Tuesday he doesn't want to get relegated to a bench role when Anthony Rizzo is activated from the COVID-19 injured list.

"I was top-10 MVP [voting] last year and I've been a great player for this organization for the last three years," Voit told reporters. "I'm not going down. I want to play. Obviously, I know it will be tough with Rizzo, but I deserve to play just as much as he does. I led the league in home runs last year. I feel really good again."

Talkin' Yanks @TalkinYanks

"I was Top 10 in MVP last year... I want to play. I know it's gonna be tough with Rizzo. I deserve to play just as much as he does. I led the league in home runs last year." -Luke Voit <a href="https://t.co/sN7QgouxHW">pic.twitter.com/sN7QgouxHW</a>

Rizzo, whom the Yankees acquired in a July trade with the Chicago Cubs, landed on the COVID-19 injured list on Aug. 7. Voit returned from a stint on the standard injured list on Aug. 8 after recovering from knee inflammation, which had so far prevented any playing-time conflicts.

Voit has posted a .804 OPS with three home runs in 10 games since being activated from the IL. He went 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBI in the Yanks' doubleheader sweep of the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, which moved New York into a wild-card position in the American League.

Here's a look at how the first basemen's numbers stack up so far in 2021:

  • Voit: .241/.325/.400, 6 HR, 20 RBI in 39 games
  • Rizzo: .251/.351/.456, 17 HR, 46 RBI in 101 games

It's unclear whether the Yankees will consider a straight platoon since both Voit (.872) and Rizzo (.878) have a higher career OPS against right-handed pitching, though Voit holds a sizable edge (.857-.789) against lefties, which could lead to more starts in those situations.

New York manager Aaron Boone wouldn't tip his hand after Tuesday's wins, telling reporters the Yanks will handle the situation "day by day" once Rizzo returns.

The 32-year-old Florida native, who made three All-Star appearances while with the Cubs, moved closer to activation Tuesday when he did infield work and took batting practice. The infielder said he was "knocked out for a solid six, seven days" with COVID-19 and was "grateful" his situation didn't get worse.

New York likely won't have much margin for error down the stretch. It remains five games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East race, and it's in a virtual three-way tie with Boston and the Oakland Athletics for the two wild-card spots, with the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners each four games back and still a threat in that race.

The Yankees may have to ride the hot hand at first base during the stretch run. It would be difficult to jettison Voit to the bench given how well he's been hitting since his return to the lineup.

The Yanks face the Red Sox in another critical game Wednesday night before hosting the Minnesota Twins for a four-game set beginning Thursday. They also face the A's four times during an upcoming nine-game road trip.