The Yankees aren’t in the clear on their latest COVID-19 outbreak just yet.
Gary Sanchez became the third Yankee to test positive for the virus this week, manager Aaron Boone announced Thursday, joining pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery.
Sanchez didn’t feel well leaving the stadium Wednesday night or when he woke up Thursday morning, according to Boone, and a rapid test came back positive. The Yankees were awaiting official confirmation from a PCR test before opening a four-game series against the Mariners in The Bronx.
“Less shock each time, even though we’ve had some really significant people on our team have it happen to,” Boone said Thursday. “The more and more it happens, the more you’re not completely caught off guard or floored by the news. I think you just check in on the individuals and see how they’re doing and making sure they’re OK. From there, it becomes, ‘What do we have to do baseball-wise now to move on and go out and try to grab a W.’ ”
The Yankees, who have more than 85 percent of their Tier 1 personnel vaccinated (relaxing some of the league-mandated protocols), have now had nine players test positive for COVID-19 this season. That does not include Gleyber Torres, who tested positive during the Yankees’ first outbreak in May along with seven members of the coaching and support staff, as the team later said the shortstop’s test proved to be a false-positive.
Still, of the nine players to test positive for the virus, six have been in the Yankees’ top-10 in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) this season, per Baseball Reference. Sanchez became the latest, in addition to Cole, Aaron Judge, Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga and Gio Urshela.
“It definitely seems like we’ve been hit a little harder [than other teams],” Boone said.
No other players were expected to be unavailable Thursday through contact tracing from Sanchez’s positive test. Boone said he didn’t have any extra concern with the catcher’s diagnosis given how much he interacts with the pitching staff.
“I guess I’m a little concerned about everything, but I mean, no,” Boone said. “We just gotta keep doing the best we can. Actually, Gary was wearing a mask much of [Wednesday]. We continue to get hit by some things, so we just gotta deal with it the best we can and try to get the best care for our guys.”
Kyle Higashioka started Thursday and will take on an everyday role until Sanchez returns — at least 10 days away, unless he tests negative twice before then. Rob Brantly, who came up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when Higashioka tested positive after the All-Star break, returned to The Bronx on Thursday to serve as the backup again.
Boone said the Yankees would continue trying to be “responsible and safe,” but aside from contact tracing, were not taking any extra precautions in light of their third outbreak of the season.
“Obviously we were in Florida this past week and that’s been one of the places of some rising cases and stuff like that, so I’m sure that could have played a role,” Boone said. “But it’s hard to know who contracted what — where, when and how. Again, just trying to navigate it the best we can.”
Sanchez had been out of the lineup Wednesday because Boone wanted to get him a day off during this stretch of games, he said. The catcher still entered the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and caught the final two frames.
“It’s a different kind of adversity that we’ve had to deal with in 2020 and 2021,” Boone said. “But it’s something we’ve got to deal with nonetheless. The guys have done an excellent job, whether it’s created opportunities for other guys to step in and step up — that’ll continue to be the expectation.”