CHICAGO — Edwin Encarnacion doesn’t solve the Yankees’ need for a starting pitcher but he certainly will add muscle to a lineup that is in the process of inserting big biceps.
Acquired from the Mariners on Saturday night for minor league pitching prospect Juan Then, Encarnacion will debut Monday in the first of three games against the Rays at Yankee Stadium.
That is the first infusion of powerful right-handed bats. Giancarlo Stanton is scheduled to return from the injured list on Tuesday. The Yankees haven’t set an exact date for Aaron Judge to come off the IL but have indicated it could be during the upcoming 10-game home stand that begins Monday.
“Potentially, over the next several days, Encarnacion, Stanton and Judge, that’s three elite power hitters plugged into our lineup,’’ Aaron Boone said prior to Sunday’s game against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. “Hopefully over time it creates a big-time advantage for us.’’
According to John Gibbons who managed Encarnacion in Toronto, the Yankees are getting a premier hitter and the ultimate professional.
“He is a great dude, doesn’t say (spit). He goes about his business. You wouldn’t know he is around until you see him do his thing on the field,’’ Gibbons said Sunday morning via phone. “He is very prepared, keeps to himself. I loved him and can’t say enough good things about him.’’
While Boone might use the 36-year-old Encarnacion at first base occasionally, the bulk of his at-bats will be as the DH. That means Stanton will play left field and turn Brett Gardner into a fourth outfielder.
“I still expect Gardy to play a lot. Obviously he is very important to this team in so many ways and will continue to do that,’’ Boone said of the veteran outfielder.
Encarnacion is expected to be in the lineup Monday. He was reportedly held out of Saturday night’s game against the A’s due to a minor back problem, and hasn’t played since Wednesday, but some of that could have been the Mariners not wanting to risk an injury amid a trade.
The Mariners sent $8.4 million to the Yankees with Encarnacion. As for luxury tax purposes, the Yankees are on the hook for about $3.4 million.
“He fits in well. He is a great hitter who has been for a long time and continues to be,’’ Boone said of Encarnacion, who led the AL in home runs (21) and was tied for third in RBIs (49) and is hitting .241 with an. 888 OPS in 65 games. He has 401 career homers. “I am looking forward to adding him and adding more length to our lineup. Not just a feared hitter but a really good hitter.’’