Andrew Benintendi joins New York Yankees, ready to compete for former rival

NEW YORK — Hours after flying across the country on the Kansas City Royals’ charter and checking into their hotel Wednesday night, outfielder Andrew Benintendi was called in by his now former manager, Mike Matheny.

Benintendi was the subject of a trade. But, Matheny told him, he wouldn’t have to leave his hotel room. New York was about to be his home.

A day after being traded out of Kansas City for a trio of New York Yankees prospects, Benintendi spoke to reporters at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. After entering the stadium’s clubhouse for the first time, Benintendi took part in a 10-minute press conference. The former Royals and Boston Red Sox player reiterated his excitement about wearing stripes and playing for a team he once viewed as a rival.

“Playing in Boston prepared me for that atmosphere and obviously I’ve played a lot of games here,” Benintendi said. “So I can’t wait to come back and play on the other side.”

Benintendi was already in the Yankees roster on Thursday and started against the team that traded him.

“It’s really a bizarre situation,” said Benintendi. “Obviously I’m going to keep in touch with those guys, as I have with my Red Sox teammates in the past.”

Rumors of a possible trade deadline change for Benintendi had been circulating the major leagues for weeks. At one point, the Yankees were considered a no-contest in the draw for the 28-year-old due to his stance on the COVID-19 vaccine.

Benintendi previously said he was against receiving the vaccine and he is still unvaccinated.

Each season, the Yankees have regular trips to Toronto, their division rival, where a vaccination mandate remains in place. Canada requires all people traveling to the country to be fully vaccinated against the virus.

On Thursday, Benintendi said he was “open-minded” about receiving the vaccine. The Yankees have another trip to Toronto this season, Sept. 26-28.

“I’m not against it, but time will tell as we get closer,” Benintendi said. “But right now, my focus is just on feeling comfortable around other guys and winning at baseball.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the front office has yet to have a conversation with Benintendi about the vaccination, adding that the team “will cross that bridge if and when we have to.”

During his five seasons in Boston, Benintendi reached the playoffs three times. In 2018, the Red Sox won the World Series by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit .333 (6 for 18) in that series and was a catalyst for Boston’s offense.

“I think it’s important,” Boone said. “He’s been there and done that. He’s kind of a veteran player now, so I can’t wait for him to be in this room. He’s really into the game, really into baseball, and I’ve can’t wait for him to get into the mix and share his experiences.

“The guy we can turn to and have a lot of confidence in any type of situation we find ourselves in. We think he’ll be equipped to handle that.”

Boone believes Benintendi’s presence can make the whole squad more versatile. The fast southpaw can hit high up the drive or appear deeper in the lineup. It also gives the Yankees an extra option in the outfield, where injuries and inconsistent play have recently forced the team to change its depth chart.

With Benintendi expected to spend most of his time in left field, New York can mix Aaron Hicks – who has mostly played that position for the past few weeks – back to center field on occasion, and bring Aaron Judge back into a position. more regular. right field role.

“Honestly, it’ll be a fun game to play once we get everyone back, hopefully,” Boone said of creating his roster.

Hard-hitting Giancarlo Stanton is currently on the 10-day disabled list with left Achilles tendonitis.

After Benintendi learned from Matheny on Wednesday night that he was traded, the outfielder stayed in his Royals hotel room and played cards with some of his teammates from the past and a half seasons.

He hasn’t checked out of the hotel yet, but is working on his future accommodation arrangements. When his former Kansas City teammates boarded buses to Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon, Benintendi had to find alternate transportation to the Bronx.

“It’s really a weird situation but that’s the way it is,” Benintendi said. “At the end of the day, you have a job to do and I’m excited to get started.”

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