2022-05-28 11:48:01 By : Mr. Billy Wang

ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Carpenter was hungry for another opportunity to play in the big leagues. He is elated to have found it with the first-place Yankees.

“If they want me to load the bags on the plane, that’s what I’ll do,” Carpenter said before Thursday's 7-2 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field. “I’m excited to put a Yankees uniform on and be part of the best team in baseball right now. I’m just fired up to be here, whatever that role looks like.”

The Yankees signed Carpenter to a Major League contract and added the three-time All-Star to their active roster before Thursday’s series opener. Carpenter, 36, was slotted into the lineup at designated hitter when Aaron Hicks was scratched about 45 minutes before first pitch. He went 0-for-2 with one walk, one hit by pitch and two runs.

Carpenter requested his release after playing 21 games this season at Triple-A Round Rock in the Rangers' organization. Carpenter was batting .275 (22-for-80) with six home runs and 19 RBIs before being released on May 19.

“We’re excited to get him here,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s someone who’s been on our radar the last couple of months when he was with the Rangers and had that opt-out. He was doing really well in Triple-A. We’d been eyeing him for a while for that left-handed bat off the bench.”

The Yankees have been hit hard by injuries of late, losing outfielder/DH Giancarlo Stanton to right ankle inflammation and third baseman/DH Josh Donaldson to the COVID-19 injured list. Infielder DJ LeMahieu is also dealing with left wrist soreness.

“When I became a free agent again, it happened fast,” Carpenter said. “Now I’m here, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.”

Over parts of 11 Major League seasons, all with the Cardinals (2011-21), Carpenter has batted .262 with 155 home runs and 576 RBIs in 1,329 games. The left-handed hitter has appeared at third base, first base, second base, right field and left field in his career.

“He’s a guy that has a lot of really good at-bats, gets on base,” said LeMahieu, who played against Carpenter often during their overlapping careers in the National League. “The guys I texted in St. Louis that I know spoke very, very highly of him, so I’m looking forward to meeting him and getting to know him.”

In 2021, Carpenter batted .169 with three home runs and 21 RBIs in 130 games while appearing at second base, first base and third base. Carpenter said that his time in Triple-A allowed him an opportunity to fine-tune his swing, which he said “feels as good as it’s felt in years.”

“I was able to put in a lot of good work in the offseason and see it translate,” Carpenter said. “Obviously it’s Triple-A pitching, but with what I was able to feel and the things I was able to have click for me, I was really encouraged by it. It kind of led to what happened here, and I’m really excited about this opportunity.”

In other moves on Thursday, the Yankees signed left-hander Manny Bañuelos to a Major League contract and selected him to the big league roster from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Catcher Rob Brantly was outrighted to Triple-A.