Andrew Benintendi wore Yankee pinstripes for the first time on Thursday night and spoke about his excitement to be a member of the organization, but the newest Yankees outfielder was noncommittal about whether he’d get the COVID-19 vaccine, which could impact the team.
The Yankees had acquired Benintendi on Wednesday night just after they had been swept by the Mets in a deal that sent a trio of minor league pitchers to Kansas City. The deal came together with the Royals in town to face the Yankees the next four days in the Bronx and pit Benintendi against his former team right off the bat.
“It’s definitely a weird situation,” Benintendi said about playing with the Royals on Wednesday and then facing them less than 24 hours later. “We all knew something probably was going to happen so when I found out last night I got to hand out in the room with a couple of the guys and they said see you tomorrow, but it’s exciting and I’m looking forward to these next four games.”
Benintendi is still staying in the same hotel as his former team. The new member of the Yankees hadn’t focused too much on the trade rumors that had been floating around for the past few weeks.
The outfielder added that he had a feeling that Wednesday had the chance to be his last game at home as a Royal since the team would be on the road until after the trade deadline.
Benintendi said during a press conference before the series opener with the Royals that he was focused on just showing up every day and not focusing on something that he can’t control.
The addition of the righty fits a hole that the Yankees needed to fill in their roster. While Yankees manager Aaron Boone pushed back on the notion that the team hits for power too much Wednesday night, Benintendi adds a bat to the lineup that can consistently get on base.
Benintendi has hit .320 this season and has an on-base percentage of .387 this season in 93 games with the Royals.
“He gets on base, that’s what he does,” Bobby Witt Jr. said about his now former teammate. “Does his job. Plays a great outfield and is just a lot of fun to watch.”
The addition of the 28-year-old, who helped the Boston Red Sox win a World Series in 2018, is one that Boone is excited about. The Yankees skipper had him leading off the lineup on Thursday and was happy to have a player on his roster with such a strong overall game.
“Any guy that’s got a championship, battle-tested, obviously played a key part in the Red Sox run in (2018),” Boone said. “Was a key figure for them. Has had an All-Star caliber season. A guy that gets on base, great bat-to-ball skills. Good defender in left field. I’m really excited to have him in the mix. I think he makes us more versatile and gives us more balance.”
While the excitement over the deal was palpable, there is a bit of a cloud hanging over the deal in terms of Benintendi’s vaccination status. He remains unvaccinated and ineligible to travel north of the border when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays in September and if the team plays them in the playoffs.
Reports on Wednesday night suggested that Benintendi had signaled he would get vaccinated as part of the deal, but he said that wasn’t true and that it wasn’t a stipulation of the trade.
“Right now I’m positioned in the same spot,” he said. “I’m opened minded (about the vaccine). I’m not against it, but time will tell as we get closer. For now, I’m just focused on getting here and getting comfortable, and getting to know the guys.”
Both Benintendi and Boone said that they had not had a conversation about the vaccine. New York isn’t scheduled to play the Blue Jays until the final week in September.
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The Yankees would be the second New York pro sports franchise to be potentially impacted by vaccine mandates this year. Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets wasn’t able to play in home games due to his refusal to get the vaccine.
He was only able to play at Barclays Center after mayor Eric Adams amended the employer mandate to exempt athletes on New York teams.