The Yankees have tried lineup change after lineup change thus far in 2021, and very few of them have worked.
Mike Ford in the cleanup spot? Nice try, but Aaron Judge may never see a pitch to hit again.
Aaron Hicks batting third? Yeah, not so much. Not exactly.
But this team has only seven wins on the season, and in two of them, backup catcher Kyle Higashioka has been the direct catalyst. That says plenty.
Perhaps you were more impressed by Domingo German’s resilience, or Rougned Odor’s clutch knock or Aroldis Chapman’s splitter on Thursday in Cleveland — and yes, all of those players contributed significantly to a hard-fought victory that nearly slipped away in the very first inning.
Higashioka, though, was the first Bomber to provide any sort of jolt with the bat, starting a third-inning rally with a rocketed double to right. He guided German through five shutout innings after his personal nightmare opening frame, featuring a bungled double play ball by the pitcher himself.
And when Yankees finally took a two-run lead, Higgy became the only player (of many who tried) to solve the swirling center field wind at Progressive Field on this chilling April night. He’s got power, too.
Yankees backup catcher Kyle Higashioka has earned more playing time.
It’s not viable to punish Gary Sanchez with repeated benchings, and he hasn’t done much to earn such a dishonor early in the season. Frankly, he’s struck the ball better than 5/9 of the everyday lineup at least, though his average has sunk to the low-.200s.
There has to be some form of middle ground, though. More Higashioka starts while Sanchez takes DH reps from Giancarlo Stanton, who’s still trying to find his bearings. Perhaps even a Higashioka start at…first base? An insane thought, and one that won’t work, but when you’ve been stuck watching Jay Bruce and Mike Ford and then get the privilege of watching this? The mind will wander.
The backup catcher is always the second-favorite athlete in any city, behind the backup quarterback. Higashioka, though, has earned more platitudes than that. He’s a baseball player, he puts different swings on different pitches in different zones, and he’s in the process of showing off more power than any other Yankee right now.
That’s right. We’ve found a player who doesn’t hit ground balls at an alarming rate. Promote this man.