Yankees give Matt Carpenter peek into the outfield to get veteran more at bats

PITTSBURGH — Kon Matt Timmerman be even more valuable to the Yankees† Sunday gave a brief look at how the 36-year old veteran infielder could see some more at bats. Committed to prop up slugger Aaron Judge and give him two days to rest his legs, Aaron Boone “teared the band-aid” and gave Carpenter a try in the outfield.

“I Just Didn’t Want To Put” [Judge] in the field if you didn’t have to [Sunday] and I was like, ‘Let’s get on with it with Carp,’ said Boone. “It was good to get him there.”

It had been eight years since Carpenter, who made his name with the Cardinals in third place, had played in the outfield. But he went right back in with the lone play ahead of him in the last inning of a 2-0 loss to the Guardians

This is not a sign that Carpenter will replace struggling outfielders Joey Gallo or Aaron Hicks anytime soon. Another option is to give the left-handed Carpenter a few squeezes. That’s exactly the situation Boone took advantage of on Sunday by using him to squeeze Marwin Gonzalez.

In the top of the eighth, Boone tagged Carpenter trying to trigger a foul that was ruled out by Cleveland. The Yankees skipper also wanted to save Judge’s big bat for a chance in the ninth.

So Carpenter took over for Gonzalez in right field. It was the first time he played in the outfield since playing 1.2 innings in the outfield for the Cardinals in 2014. Franmil Reyes singled and scored a run down the right side of the infield. Carpenter put it on smoothly and threw it in.

It’s not such a new concept for Carpenter, who has played 118 big league-games in the outfield.

But it’s a chance to give him more at bats. Carpenter cuts .286/.412/.881 with a 1.293 OPS since his pick up in late May. He hit eight homeruns, a double and scored 17 runs in 20 games with the Bombers.

It’s quite a dramatic turnaround from 2021, when he hit .169/.305/.275 with three home runs and 21 RBI in 130 games in his final season with St. Louis, where he was a three-time All-Star.

Carpenter spent the winter reworking a swing he knew had become out of sync in recent years. He signed a minor-league deal with the Rangers seeking another chance and spent the first month in Triple-A.

“To be [as] my bat path through the zone just wasn’t right,” Carpenter said of the change he had to make. “It’s been in and out for the last two seasons. I couldn’t get it through the zone consistently and now I feel like my swing is consistently in the zone. And if you throw pitches across the plate, I can hit them where you the last years could throw wherever you want, you [could] throw [it] right in the middle, but my swing was so in and out of the zone that I had a hard time hitting it. †

After the first month of this season, Carpenter pulled out of his Triple-A deal and the Yankees picked him up on May 26. They had seen him in spring practice and with Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton on the injured list at the time, felt he could at least give them competitive at bats. Carpenter had been home for a week and wasn’t sure if that was the end of an 11-year career that included three All-Star appearances.

“I went very close that it was over, until now I got a chance. But as it happened, in the best baseball team, a franchise like the New York Yankees, to shoot at me, does it mean a lot?” said Carpenter. “I really enjoyed it and I’m happy to be able to contribute to a team that has a very good chance of winning the World Series.”

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