The Yankees made four members of their organization available to reporters before Wednesday’s game against the Orioles — their manager, first baseman, setup man and, of course, their traveling secretary.
Because in 2020 you better be on top of hitting, pitching and logistics. But as long as the Yankees wake up in Baltimore — regardless of where the first or second version of the schedule stated they would be — it is pretty much certain to go well. With fans. Without fans. Camden Yards is the Yankees’ homer away from homer.
The Yanks did the familiar in Baltimore. They went deep and won. DJ LeMahieu homered on the second pitch of Wednesday night’s game. Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks launched in the third inning. Gerrit Cole in his second start as a Yankee finished with fine numbers and won without his sharpest stuff.
The Yankees were 17-2 against the Orioles last season, winning their final 16 games against Team Tank. They were 10-0 at Camden, hitting 43 homers and averaging 9.5 runs per game. They picked up seamlessly in 2020 despite all the disruption, winning 9-3 behind the homers and Cole.
“I thought our mindset was really good,” Aaron Boone said after the game.
What did the Yankees manager offer before the opener at Camden? Boone pronounced, “I’m under the impression we are playing the Phillies next week.”
You don’t have certainties in 2020. You have impressions. The schedule is a moving target. Write it in pencil. Bring your eraser. What is on paper is more suggestion than hammered-in-granite reality. Flexibility and adaptability are essential. As Boone said, “You have to stay in the athletic position.”
Adam Ottavino offered, “Once we agreed to play you had your head on a swivel the whole time.”
Yep, all body parts must be committed to whatever is requested moment to moment. This is baseball as “Chopped,” making something delectable out of random ingredients with the clock ticking. All was disheveled this week when more than half the Marlins’ 30-man roster tested positive for COVID-19 while in Philadelphia, forcing both teams to go on hiatus.
Suddenly, the Yankees were hanging out in Philadelphia, not going to New York and playing in Baltimore. The itinerary was in flux, but not the Yankees’ attitude. They have offered no public whine.
“We think we have a special team and can have a special season,” Boone said. “It has been easy to get those guys all in and committed to everything.”
The focus and fortitude is necessary when so much of the familiar becomes foreign. The Yankees’ schedule became at the mercy of the infestation that hit the Marlins in Philly. So, now the Marlins are not playing before Monday. To try to rule out latent cases that had not shown yet among Phillies personnel, Philadelphia will not play before Saturday. The Yanks’ initial plan was to head home Tuesday from Philly for a workout at their stadium and wait for what was next. Suddenly what was next was Baltimore. That is where the Marlins were supposed to be on Wednesday and Thursday. So the Orioles had an open dance card.
Yankees players voted unanimously to play two games in Baltimore, the Orioles did the same and MLB sanctified it. At that point, Yankees player rep Zack Britton had an “oh, yeah” moment and turned to long-time team traveling secretary Ben Tuliebitz and asked, “Can we get hotel rooms [in Baltimore]?” Tuliebitz said he thought so. Normally, he is reserving accommodations eight to 10 months in advance when the next year’s schedule comes out.
“It’s been a crazy couple of days,” Tuliebitz said.
It doesn’t end. Which is why Boone had an “impression” of the upcoming slate. Next week’s Yankees schedule — for now — now has four games against the Phillies followed by a weekend at Tampa that now suddenly includes a doubleheader. That doubleheader may become two seven-inning games, if MLB approves a request made by the players association designed to limit time in the stadium and lessen wear on pitchers.
Who knows what comes next? This is not a season for those adamant about routine — aside from the routine the Yankees enjoy in Baltimore. Whichever team emerges is going to have a talent for both baseball and improv. Whichever clubs can’t handle this will be chopped.