Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo back; will not answer the vaccination question

TAMPA — The Yankees brought back Anthony Rizzo for a variety of reasons: his left power-bat, solid defense at first base — and his championship pedigree, which was a key piece of the 2016 Cubs title-winning team.

Rizzo made his first on-field appearance Thursday at the Yankees camp Agreed to a two-year, $32 million deal with an opt-out after this season.

“That’s where I wanted to be,” said Rizzo, part of a class of first basemen that included free agents Freddie Freeman and Kyle Schwarber, and Matt Olson, who was traded from Oakland to Atlanta.

Now that Freeman is a Dodger and Schwarber is in PhiladelphiaRizzo is happy to be back in the Bronx and he likes the Yankees’ chances.

“Experience is definitely key, and there’s experience in this dressing room,” Rizzo said. “The Yankees haven’t won in a couple of years, but they’ve had postseason runs. … This game is tough. Everyone wants to bring the next dynasty to the stage, but this game is so competitive now.”

Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo turns the ball to first base during field practice at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees Spring Training Home in Tampa.
Anthony Rizzo
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Po

Rizzo pointed to two recent World Series champions as examples, with the Braves surprising last year and the Nationals turning their season around to win it all in 2019.

“That really puts that into perspective,” Rizzo said. “Were the Braves the most talented team last year? Absolutely not. But in the end they came together and were the best team. Playfully, they had the right formula. And you need a few jumps and the experience of getting hit and not losing focus.

With three weeks to go until Opening Day, the Yankees likely aren’t done maneuvering and trying to move Luke Voit, who doesn’t have room to play regularly.

When asked if he thought the front office was done making moves on the list, Aaron Boone replied, “What I would say is that I haven’t seen much of it [GM Brian Cashman] in the last few days because he was busy. … guys are working overtime right now, especially in addition to trying to round out our club and exploring different options, things like arbitration numbers. So there’s a lot going on in this condensed version with no three months off-season.”

Managing partner Hal Steinbrenner has previously said the Yankees have a “championship caliber” team.

If he’s going to be right, Rizzo has a big role to play.

He provides a left-handed hitter, which is one of the reasons the Yankees prefer Rizzo to Voit.

Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo hits a home run during batting practice at spring practice.
Anthony Rizzo hits a home run during batting practice at spring practice.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Po

And they have to hope he returns to the form he showed when he made his first trade off the Cubs last July when Rizzo went 9-for-32 with three homers in his first nine games as a Yankee.

He was then sidelined by COVID and was not as productive on the track.

After saying last year that he wasn’t vaccinated, Rizzo declined to reveal his status Thursday as the Yankees negotiate with City Hall over the private sector work mandate would prevent unvaccinated players from playing in the Bronx.

“I don’t think we really need to worry about that,” Rizzo said. “We will see what the mandates are. I’m not too worried.”

Pressing on the issue, Rizzo said he prefers to keep his vaccination information private, citing the “backlash” he received online last year when he said he wasn’t vaccinated.

Regarding Rizzo’s impact on the Yankees, Boone praised his offense, defense and leadership.

“Obviously he caught fire as soon as he came to us, and I think COVID in a lot of ways… disrupted the climb that he was on,” Boone said. “I think it took him a while to get back on track physically because it knocked him out physically for a couple of weeks. It kind of destroyed some of the momentum he was building. I fully expect Anthony [to have] a really good chance to have a year that’s consistent with what he’s been doing in his career, which is lots of production.”

He has been less productive in each of the last two seasons but the 32-year-old said he has made some adjustments to his swing.

“Hopefully it pays off,” Rizzo said. Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo back; will not answer the vaccination question


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