NEW YORK — The lineup the Yankees used against the Red Sox on Friday night would have been perfectly acceptable for a spring training road game.
It was not for the first game of a series in July.
Trey Amburgey, Chris Gittens, and Tim Locastro starting against the Sox? That was never part of any plan. Nor was having Greg Allen, Rob Brantly, and Hoy Jun Park on the bench.
The Red Sox coaches had to call their minor league counterparts to get quickie scouting reports before a 4-0 victory.
Six Yankees have tested positive for COVID-19 since returning from the All-Star break and now are on the injured list. Thursday’s game was postponed, then the Yanks made a flurry of other roster moves a day later to cover all the sudden gaps.
As that news came out before the game, Sox manager Alex Cora looked just as concerned as Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
Some things supersede the rivalry and an outbreak of the virus in the clubhouse down the hall is one of them. Boone said three of his players are showing symptoms.
In all, the Yankees put seven players on the IL over two days before starting what for them was a crucial series against the Sox. They also lost Luke Voit with more pain in his left knee.
“It’s a great opportunity for our team and for a lot of people that are getting opportunities, in some cases for the first time at the big-league level,” said Boone, who didn’t sound like he really meant it.
The Yankees managed only three hits against newly clean-shaven Eduardo Rodriguez and two relievers. In the fifth inning, down 3-0, Boone let Locastro bat against Rodriguez with two on and two out. He struck out on five pitches.
Locastro is hitting .180 this season. But it’s not like Boone had a better choice on his bench.
Cora didn’t take any joy from his opponents’ misery. He knows the same thing could happen to the Red Sox at any time.
“It’s tough,” Cora said. “I talked to [Boone] and with this situation I don’t want to be in his shoes. There’s a lot of stuff that comes into play and I think the less important is the competition part of it.
“The clubhouse, the clubbies, everybody that is involved in this operation, it’s uncomfortable. I can tell how tough it is for him.
“That’s the part that hopefully we can avoid. We got to this point doing it the right way. You can call it lucky, too. We played four teams that have gone through this.”
Cora is vaccinated, as is Boone. But both teams have players, coaches and staffers who aren’t and it’s a constant worry. There’s only so much they can do.
It looked for a while like baseball had conquered the virus. But the All-Star break led to trouble.
The Colorado Rockies also have a crisis. Righthanders Yency Almonte, Jhoulys Chacin, and Antonio Senzatela were placed on the COVID injured list Friday along with outfielder Yonathan Diaz.
First base coach Ron Gideon and manager Bud Black also weren’t available for the game against the Dodgers.
As he watched the All-Star Game at home, Cora was concerned about the aftermath as players traveled back to their homes around the country and visited friends and family.
The game itself worried him, too. He knew from experience how packed the clubhouses and dugouts would be.
“The thing that we cannot control, they were there,” Cora said. “It’s just hard. I hate to see this.”
Cora and Boone were both hired before the 2018 season. Cora won a World Series right away then was essentially fired before last season amidst scandal before coming back.
Boone has led the Yankees to three playoff berths but not yet won a pennant, which is how managers are judged in New York. Now his team is in fourth place.
“As you know, I love that guy,” Cora said. “I respect him and I know it hasn’t gone his way this season. But this is very tough to see from afar.
“Hopefully, for him and for the organization this will pass right away. Hopefully it’s a few days and they can come back and perform and do their thing. It’s tough, it’s very tough.”