NEW YORK – Andrew Benintendi wouldn’t say whether he’ll get vaccinated against COVID-19 now that he’s with the first-place New York Yankees and not the last-place Kansas City Royals.
A day after New York acquired the 28-year-old All-Star from the Royals for three minor league pitchers, Benintendi was on Thursday night playing left field against his former team.
He was among 10 Royals who missed a four-game series in Toronto from July 14-17 because he was unvaccinated and could not enter Canada. He lost $186,813 of the $8.5 million salary.
The Yankees have a three-game series in Toronto from September 26-28.
“Right now, you know, I’m still in the same place. I’m open-minded about it,” Benintendi said. “I’m not against it, but time will tell as we get closer, but right now I’m just focused on getting here, getting comfortable, getting to know the guys and winning baseball games.”
Benintendi, who took a third strike from Brady Singer in his first at-bat for the Yankees, had yet to discuss the issue with his new team.
“We’ll cross that bridge if and when we have to, but I haven’t had that conversation,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Benintendi had arrived with the Royals in New York and was in his hotel room when Royals manager Mike Matheny told him about the trade about 11 p.m. Wednesday night.
“It’s a weird situation,” Benintendi said. “Obviously I beat them yesterday and now I’m going against them today.”
Matheny knew the trade was possible before the flight, but kept the possibility to himself.
“We couldn’t do anything and we tried to follow the rules that the league sets and let the doctors go,” Matheny said. “We landed and still couldn’t say anything, so I crouched outside his door and made sure he didn’t escape.”
Matheny got general manager JJ Picollo and team president Dayton Moore on speakerphone when he told Benintendi.
“Fortunate and thankful to the Yankees for holding on to that as long as they could to be able to have that conversation in person,” Matheny said. “He deserved to have that conversation in person.”
As word spread among the Royals, many of whom found out via Twitter and other social media, several players gathered in Benintendi’s room to wish him well. Some even stayed to play cards with their old partner. Bobby Witt Jr., whose locker was located next to Benintendi’s at Kauffman Stadium.
“I got to talk to him a lot about baseball,” Witt said of their time as teammates. “He’s a great person both on and off the field, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him continue his success.”
Benintendi had to switch from No. 16 to No. 18 with the Yankees: 16 is retired by Whitey Ford.
Hitting .320 with three homers, 39 RBIs and a .788 OPS this season, Benintendi should fit in well with an offense that has scored more runs in the majors.
“He was a championship guy, battle-tested. Obviously, he played a key role in the Red Sox’s run in 18, he was a key figure for them,” Boone said. “He had an All-Star caliber season, a guy who gets on base, great bat-to-ball skills, good defender in left field. I’m really excited to have him.”
Tim Locastro was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to open a roster spot.
Boone plans to place his new addition in left field for the most part, a position where he won a Gold Glove last year. Aaron Judge may have seen more time in right field than center, and Aaron Hicks may have seen time in center than left.
“I think it makes us more versatile, it gives us a little more balance,” Boone said of Benintendi.
For now, Benintendi remained at the Royals hotel.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen there,” he said. “It’s still taking in a lot of information right now, so I’m just trying to process it all.”
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Benintendi won’t say if he will be vaccinated with Yankees
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