Yankes Luke Voit needs knee surgery, giving chance for Jay Bruce

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
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TAMPA, Fla. — Major league home run champion Luke Voit needs knee surgery to repair a partial meniscus tear, an injury that opened a New York Yankees roster spot for Jay Bruce on Saturday as a converted first baseman.

Voit will not have any baseball activities for three weeks after the operation on his left knee, manager Aaron Boone said. Voit is expected back in May.

“Let’s have the surgery, see how the early days are and then we will be able to evaluate,” Boone said.

The injury to Voit, who hit 22 homers in the pandemic-shortened season, played a role in the decision to add Bruce, who attended spring training with a minor league contract.

“We’re going to be missing Luke but I know Jay Bruce is going to come in and do some special things for us,” Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge said. “Luke is a big part of this team, big part of this offense. He’s a really vocal guy in the clubhouse who gets us motivated. I’m excited to have Jay Bruce on his team. This is why he came to this team, was to help anyway he can and help us win a championship.”

Voit had an MRI exam on Friday, which led to discussions that night on whether the slugger would go through a treatment program and try to play through it or have surgery.

“Decided to go in and have that cleaned up,” Boone said. “Functionally he was playing but was still dealing with some swelling in there after games and things like that. Felt like calendar wise it was best to get this taken care of with hopefully putting it behind him for the bulk of the season.”

Bruce has played 1,510 major league games in the outfield and 54 at first base, including two last season.

“It was part of the equation,” Boone said. “So, Jay is with us. I expect him to play a lot and a lot of first base for us. Excited to see what he can do for us.”

Bruce gets a contract paying $1.35 million while in the major leagues and $150,000 should he be assigned to the minors.

“I was waiting on the Yankees to let me know,” said Bruce, who was informed about the decision early Saturday morning. “Clearly this is where I wanted to be. This is why I signed here. I’m extremely excited.”

Bruce is hitting .194 average with two homers and three RBIs in 31 at-bats during spring training.

Boone said outfielder Michael Tauchman, who is out of minor league options, is set to be an extra outfielder.

Bruce is a rare left-handed bat on the heavily right-handed Yankees. In their projected batting order, switch-hitting center fielder Aaron Hicks is joined by eight right-handed hitters. Left-handed-hitting outfielder Brett Gardner, projected as a reserve behind Clint Frazier, also figures to get significant playing time.

Bruce hit .198 with six homers and 14 RBIs for Philadelphia in 96 at-bats during the pandemic-shortened season. He is a three-time All-Star with a .245 average, 318 home runs and 948 RBIs during 13 big league seasons with Cincinnati (2008-15), the New York Mets (2016-18), Cleveland (2018), Seattle (2019) and the Phillies.

Mike Ford, considered the frontrunner to back up Voit when spring training started, went 4 for 4 with a solo homer in Saturday’s 5-1, eight-inning win over Toronto. Ford was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on March 19.

Gleyber Torres was 3 for 3 with a pair of homers, giving him five overall.

New York released infielder Derek Dietrich and injured catcher Robinson Chirinos from minor league contracts. Releasing them does not preclude the Yankees from re-signing them.

Right-hander Clarke Schmidt was placed on the 60-day injured list with a right elbow strain, opening a spot for Bruce on the 40-man roster.

Notes: The players’ union is discussing the possibility of asking MLB to move the All-Star Game in Atlanta following the approval of new restrictions on election voting in Georgia “That’s a big issue, an important issue,” Judge said. “It’s something definitely to dive into.” … LHP Justin Wilson, who injured his left shoulder in Monday’s game against Philadelphia, resumed throwing on Saturday. Wilson threw at 90 feet on level ground and said it hasn’t been determined if he will start the season on the injured list.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.