Yankees replace Volpe with Ben Rice at leadoff, rookie homers to make instant impact

Yankees' rookie Ben Rice hits his first MLB home run on July 4, 2024, vs. the Reds in New York.
Inna Zeyger
Friday July 5, 2024

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In a strategic move to revitalize their offense, the New York Yankees promoted rookie Ben Rice to the leadoff spot for the first time on Thursday, addressing Anthony Volpe’s recent struggles at the top of the order.

Ben Rice seized the opportunity by hitting his first major league home run since his June call-up. The solo shot, a 407-foot blast to right field with an exit velocity of 105.6 mph, was a no-doubter, clearing the fence in all 30 MLB parks.

Manager Aaron Boone explained that the lineup change by inserting Ben Rice aimed to inject new energy into the team’s offense. This marked the first time Volpe had been moved from the leadoff position since April 9.

Despite Ben Rice’s 1-for-5 performance, which included the impressive home run, the Yankees fell to the Cincinnati Reds 8-4 at Yankee Stadium.

The decision to promote Ben Rice underscores the Yankees’ quest for consistent production at the top of the order. Should the Yankees’ rookie continue to excel in this role, he could become a pivotal component of the team’s offensive strategy moving forward.

Ben Rice makes instant impact following Yankees’ shakeup

New York Yankees’ Ben Rice celebrates hitting a home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Thursday, July 4, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Pamela Smith

The New York Yankees’ recent lineup adjustment spotlighted rookie Ben Rice, who made an impressive debut as the leadoff hitter. In his 15th major league game, the 25-year-old hit his first home run, a 407-foot blast that energized the Yankee Stadium crowd.

The Baby Bomber expressed his excitement at reaching this milestone, noting that he kept the ball as a memento. “Just excitement. Overjoyed,” Ben Rice said after the game. “Finally got that first one out of the way.”

Manager Aaron Boone’s decision to move Ben Rice to the top of the order came as Anthony Volpe was shifted down. Volpe, who had been the leadoff hitter since early in the season, has struggled recently, batting just .155 with 14 strikeouts and only two walks in his last 13 games. As the leadoff hitter, Volpe posted a .242/.293/.358 line, falling short of consistently setting the table for stars like Juan Soto and Aaron Judge.

Boone explained that the lineup change aimed to relieve Volpe of the pressures of leading off. He discussed the decision with Volpe, who reportedly took it well. The Yankees manager also noted that the move might not be permanent, hinting at the possibility of Volpe returning to the leadoff spot, particularly against left-handed pitchers.

“I feel like the last couple of weeks he’s been struggling,” Boone explained why he took Volpe out. “I feel like he’s done a lot of really good in that spot [too]. And I don’t rule out him going back there or against lefties being up there.“Just feel like a little blow from that spot might serve him well.”

Despite going 1-for-5, Ben Rice’s performance showed promise. His first-inning strikeout came after a seven-pitch battle, showcasing his patience at the plate. This disciplined approach, coupled with his power, suggests Rice could be a valuable asset at the top of the Yankees‘ lineup moving forward.

Ben Rice has quickly made his mark in the majors, boasting a .360 on-base percentage since his debut. Starting the season in Double-A Somerset, Rice has effectively stepped in for Anthony Rizzo at first base and has excelled particularly against right-handed pitchers.

New York Yankees’ Ben Rice celebrates in the dugout after hitting a home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Thursday, July 4, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Pamela Smith

Manager Boone’s strategic move to position Ben Rice at the top of the lineup places him ahead of star sluggers Juan Soto and Aaron Judge. The Yankees rookie, maintaining a consistent approach at the plate, expressed excitement about batting before such high-profile teammates but downplayed the significance of his new role.

Boone stated that the lineup change aims to boost the Yankees’ offense amid a team-wide slump, excluding the performances of Judge and Soto. As the Yankees gear up for their series against the Boston Red Sox, who will feature three right-handed starting pitchers, Ben Rice’s performance in the leadoff position will be under close scrutiny.

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