TAMPA, Fla. — Luke Voit had a feeling his time with the Yankees was coming to an end once New York brought back Anthony Rizzo.
“Knew something was going to happen over the last day or two,” Voit said after he was traded to the San Diego Padres for 20-year-old right-hander Justin Lange, the 34th overall pick in the 2020 amateur draft.
Voit, a 31-year-old right-handed hitter with power, led the major leagues with 22 home runs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when he hit .277 with 52 RBIs.
“Really excited,” said as he left Bradenton, where the Yankees played their exhibition opener against Pittsburgh. “Not only a good organization but they’ve got a team ready to win. I’m super excited I get to play with my one of my college teammates, Pierce Johnson.”
Voit made four trips to the injured list last year, three stints because of a left knee that had surgery on March 29 to repair a torn meniscus: March 31 to May 11 while recovering, then July 16 to Aug. 8 and Sept. 30 through the postseason because of inflammation. He also was on the IL from May 27 to June 22 with a strained right oblique.
“It’s a good thing for my career, kind of a fresh start with a new team,” Voit said. “I want to thank the Yankees for bringing me over here, giving me a chance to play. I was kind of stuck in St. Louis, so I appreciate everything they did. I loved the fan base, loved putting the pinstripes on. I wish all the guys the best of luck, and I’m excited about for a bright future.”
Voit hit .239 with 11 homers and 35 RBIs In 68 games with the Yankees last season, including five home runs in the eighth inning or later. New York acquired Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs ahead of the trade deadline, seeking a left-handed-hitting first baseman.
Rizzo became a free agent, then finalized a $32 million, two-year deal on Thursday.
“I think for him, it’s probably kind of bittersweet,” Rizzo said after working at Steinbrenner Field. “He had a good time here, the fans loved him. We got along really well. We hung out off the field, we hung while playing, we hung out in the clubhouse, so it was a good time.”
Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge said it was a difficult situation.
“He stepped up for us in a big way in 2018 when we got him,” Judge said. “He came in and just from the first very game he was productive and kind of changed this lineup, changed this team. It’s tough to see him go, but I’m excited for his opportunity with the Padres.”
“Luke, he brought energy every single day,” Judge added. “Didn’t matter if it was a day game, night game, we’re on a losing a streak, winning streak, he was the same guy. Always played with heart, played with passion. Luke, I feel like, kind of represented the New York spirit.”
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole was a fun teammate who will be missed.
“When he said something, what are you going to do, stand up to him?” Cole said with a smile. “He’s going to put you in a headlock.”
Lange was 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in nine starts last season for the rookie-level Arizona Complex League Padres, striking out 29 and walked 15 in 22 innings.
To clear a roster spot, San Diego placed right-hander Michel Baez on the 60-day injured list.
The Yankees ace, bothered by a hamstring injury at the end of last season, threw 22 pitches in his first simulated game and said he felt good and threw a lot of strikes. Manager Aaron Boone has not yet announced Cole as his opening day starter.
“Aaron just wants to keep everything fluid,” Cole said. “He loves fluidness. Definitely that’s the focal point, is to pitch opening day.”