Mancuso: Voit In The Opener

The Opener in the Bronx  Worked Well For Yankees manager Aaron Boone. Luke Voit and Greg Bird. They were the topic of the spring for the New York Yankees and in the Bronx Thursday afternoon they were the talk on Opening Day. They made it a perfect Opening Day game in the Bronx for the Yankees with the home run ball in the lineup.

Prior to the game, Boone said this was a day of celebration for baseball. Voit at designated hitter and Bird at first base made this a celebration for the Yankees in their Opening Day 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Consider that Voit became the newest fan favorite with his first inning three run homer.

Then there is Bird. He was possibly the odd man out on this 25-man roster. But six  players on the 10-day injured list created a spot. No more competition on this day for the first base job. Aaron Boone in his debut as a second year manager made this a celebration.

“What a day, great at bats,” Boone said about Voit.  He was also referring to Bird who hit a solo home run to center in the eighth inning that electrified a sold out crowd in the Bronx.

But the story here is about Voit, or is it Bird? Either way, Aaron Boone played percentages this Opening Day, He inserted Voit as the DH in the cleanup spot. Bird on this day in the seventh hole at first base and a few weeks ago it seemed first base and a roster spot would go to Voit.

After all, Voit proved to be that valuable Yankee and the unexpected happened after that late season acquisition from the St. Cardinals last season. Quickly, Voit became that unsung hero during the Yankees postseason and Bird was still a question mark as to his role with this team.

So, who would have envisioned both in the starting lineup on Opening Day in the Bronx? For that matter, who would saw this coming? Voit with that early home run and the Yankees never looked back against the young Orioles of Baltimore.

Masahiro Tanaka tossed 5.2 innings and got the win. That Yankees bullpen, considered the best in baseball, finished the job. But that early inning home run from Voit, later cemented by the one from Bird, that was the story of this celebration in the Bronx.

“It’s unbelievable,” Voit said. “Who would have thought I’d be here for Opening Day.? I always thought I’d do it in a Cardinals uniform. I ended up being hurt last year and I missed opportunities to get called up in St. Louis. To have that first Opening Day and hit a home run Opening Day is pretty special. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

And to hit that home run in that first at bat? Well, let’s say for now Luke Voit is the newest favorite of Yankees fans for now. Aaron Judge is still the favorite at Yankee Stadium. So are a cast of others in that lineup but on Opening Day Luke Voit stole the show.

So where does this situate Voit and Bird in the lineup? The manager would not say, but it can be assumed both will be in the lineup again Saturday afternoon when this opening series with the Orioles resumes. For the moment, assuming Giancarlo Stanton is not the DH, it would be Aaron Boone using the same situation when the lineup is put together this weekend.

Voit hit the slider for his first home run of the season. It resembled so much how the 28-year old hit 14 home runs after being acquired in late July of last season.  Those home runs and this one Thursday afternoon are no longer a surprise for the Yankees. Then again, who was Luke Voit before the Yankees delivered him to the Bronx?

“I’ve talked to him all the time how well he controls the strike zone and hits the ball with authority the other way,” Boone said. “Opening Day, three-run homer in the books, runners on base. He never left the zone, never got out of himself.”

And through this all, Greg Bird has continued to be a team player. Except, Bird, who has been burdened with injuries, was not expected to be in the Opening Day lineup. He was slated to possibly start the season in Triple-A and work his way up again.

“Great way to start Opening Day,” Bird said.  Yes it was a great beginning for the 2019 New York Yankees.  Even better, because it was Voit and Bird who contributed with the home run ball as the Yankees picked up where they left off last season when they paced the majors in hitting the home run ball.

And it was a celebration as the manager said. Masahiro Tanaka got his first Opening Day win and the bullpen, considered the best in baseball finished the job.

Credit: Bill Menzel

“LUUUKE” chants in the sellout crowd this day.  Perhaps “Bird” calls the next day. It could work but there are players on the injured list and then Aaron Boone has to make decisions.

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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