Juan Soto makes instant impact on Yankees after returning from injury

Yankees' Juan Soto celebrates his first hit against the Royals at Kansas City on June 10, 2024.
Joe Najarian
Tuesday June 11, 2024

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Juan Soto rejoined the New York Yankees’ lineup on Monday night, contributing a single and a walk in a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Serving as the designated hitter, Juan Soto had been sidelined for the previous three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers due to inflammation in his left forearm.

Hitting in the No. 2 spot, Juan Soto singled and scored on Alex Verdugo‘s hit during a two-run first inning. Meanwhile, slumping first baseman Anthony Rizzo was left out of the lineup for the second straight game.

Juan Soto mentioned that he had undergone treatment earlier in the day and tested his arm in the batting cages to ensure everything was in order. He acknowledged significant improvement but recognized that the issue might not be resolved quickly.

“I did all my treatment early today and I went to the cages making sure everything went fine and it did,” he said. “I’ve been seeing a lot of improvement. Definitely, it’s not going to go away that quick.”

Acquired from the San Diego Padres in December, the 25-year-old outfielder has been outstanding this season, posting a .318 batting average with 17 home runs, 53 RBIs, and a 1.024 OPS. Juan Soto is expected to enter free agency after the World Series.

According to the Yankees, a scan on Friday revealed no issues with Juan Soto’s elbow.

Yankees' Juan Soto hits a single against the Royals at Kansas City on June 10, 2024.

Manager Aaron Boone expressed optimism that Juan Soto would return to playing in the outfield soon, possibly during the current series against the Royals. Boone explained that the decision to keep him out of the outfield on Monday was influenced by the team’s late-night arrival in Kansas City following a Sunday night game against the Dodgers in the Bronx.

Boone emphasized the importance of easing Juan Soto back into action, indicating a cautious approach to his return to full play.

Juan Soto leads Yankees’ ‘B team’

The Yankees’ confidence in Juan Soto’s return was clearly visible as they fielded a ‘B team’ against the Royals. He played as the designated hitter in a bod to avoid any further injury. Meanwhile, Boone decided to give several key players a well-deserved rest. The team’s lineup was notably missing several key players.

The Yankees rested their captain, Aaron Judge, in the opener of their four-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Monday. Judge, who had started all of the Yankees’ first 67 games, boasts a .305 average, leading the majors with 24 home runs, 59 RBIs, and a 1.139 OPS.

Manager Aaron Boone highlighted Judge’s exceptional performance this season but stressed the necessity of occasional rest, especially following the team’s late arrival in Kansas City at 3 a.m. Boone had preemptively decided to give Judge the night off for this game.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo, experiencing a challenging stretch with a 1-for-29 slump this month and a .224 average with seven homers and 25 RBIs, was also granted a second consecutive day off. Boone noted that the break was intended to offer Rizzo a mental respite and a chance to refine his hitting mechanics.

The Yankees were also without Giancarlo Stanton.

Yankees' Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo

Additionally, the bullpen was set to operate without the services of Clay Holmes and Luke Weaver. This unconventional lineup quickly drew criticism from fans on social media, with many labeling it a “punt lineup” and questioning the team’s strategy.

However, the Yankees remained unfazed by the external noise and refused to subscribe to the notion that their lineup was subpar. Instead, they viewed it as an opportunity for their depth players to step up and showcase their skills. As the game unfolded, it became evident that the Yankees’ approach was well-suited to the talents of their “B lineup.” In a refreshing departure from past seasons, where players might have been tempted to swing for the fences and play hero ball, the Yankees displayed a more strategic and patient approach at the plate.

The team focused on stringing together singles, executing well-placed bunts, and working the count to their advantage. This small-ball strategy allowed them to manufacture runs and keep the pressure on their opponents. Moreover, the Yankees’ defense remained solid, with players stepping up to make crucial plays in the field.

The success of the “B lineup” served as a testament to the Yankees’ depth and adaptability. It demonstrated that even without their star players, the team possesses the talent and baseball acumen to compete at a high level. The balanced approach and emphasis on fundamentals proved to be a winning formula, silencing the doubters and reinforcing the Yankees’ status as a formidable squad.

As the season progresses, the Yankees’ ability to thrive with different lineup configurations and strategies bodes well for their long-term success. It showcases the team’s resilience, versatility, and the strength of their roster from top to bottom. While the absence of key players like Judge, Stanton, and Rizzo might have raised eyebrows initially, the Yankees’ performance with their “B lineup” has undoubtedly turned those doubts into admiration.

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