Reigning HR king Voit to start Yanks’ year on IL

TAMPA, Fla. — Major league home run champion Luke Voit needs knee surgery to repair a partial meniscus tear, an injury that opened a New York Yankees roster spot for Jay Bruce on Saturday as a converted first baseman.

Voit will not have any baseball activities for three weeks after the operation on his left knee, manager Aaron Boone said. Voit is expected back in May.

“Let’s have the surgery, see how the early days are and then we will be able to evaluate,” Boone said.

The injury to Voit, who hit 22 homers in the pandemic-shortened season, played a role in the decision to add Bruce, who attended spring training with a minor league contract.

“We’re going to be missing Luke but I know Jay Bruce is going to come in and do some special things for us,” Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge said. “Luke is a big part of this team, big part of this offense. He’s a really vocal guy in the clubhouse who gets us motivated. I’m excited to have Jay Bruce on his team. This is why he came to this team, was to help any way he can and help us win a championship.”

Voit had an MRI exam on Friday, which led to discussions that night on whether the slugger would go through a treatment program and try to play through it or have surgery.

“Decided to go in and have that cleaned up,” Boone said. “Functionally he was playing but was still dealing with some swelling in there after games and things like that. Felt like calendar wise it was best to get this taken care of with hopefully putting it behind him for the bulk of the season.”

Bruce has played 1,510 major league games in the outfield and 54 at first base, including two last season.

“It was part of the equation,” Boone said. “So, Jay is with us. I expect him to play a lot and a lot of first base for us. Excited to see what he can do for us.”

Bruce gets a contract paying $1.35 million while in the major leagues and $150,000 should he be assigned to the minors.

“I was waiting on the Yankees to let me know,” said Bruce, who was informed about the decision early Saturday morning. “Clearly this is where I wanted to be. This is why I signed here. I’m extremely excited.”

Bruce entered Saturday with a .194 average, two homers and three RBIs in 31 at-bats during spring training.

Boone said outfielder Mike Tauchman, who is out of minor league options, is set to be an extra outfielder.

Bruce is a rare left-handed bat on the heavily right-handed Yankees. In their projected batting order, switch-hitting center fielder Aaron Hicks is joined by eight right-handed hitters. Left-handed-hitting outfielder Brett Gardner, projected as a reserve behind Clint Frazier, also figures to get significant playing time.

Bruce hit .198 with six homers and 14 RBIs for Philadelphia in 96 at-bats during the pandemic-shortened season. He is a three-time All-Star with a .245 average, 318 home runs and 948 RBIs during 13 big league seasons with Cincinnati (2008-15), the New York Mets (2016-18), Cleveland (2018), Seattle (2019) and the Phillies.

New York released infielder Derek Dietrich and injured catcher Robinson Chirinos from minor league contracts. Releasing them does not preclude the Yankees from re-signing them.

Right-hander Clarke Schmidt was placed on the 60-day injured list with a right elbow strain, opening a spot for Bruce on the 40-man roster.

Game notes The players’ union is discussing the possibility of asking MLB to move the All-Star Game in Atlanta following the approval of new restrictions on election voting in Georgia “That’s a big issue, an important issue,” Judge said. “It’s something definitely to dive into.” … LHP Justin Wilson, who injured his left shoulder in Monday’s game against Philadelphia, resumed throwing on Saturday. Wilson threw at 90 feet on level ground and said it hasn’t been determined if he will start the season on the injured list.

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