Edwin Encarnacion
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Edwin Encarnacion’s folk hero status can rally the New York Yankees once he returns from his fractured wrist.

Josh Benjamin

Edwin Encarnacion is still part of the New York Yankees.

Sorry, but some people needed reminding. Between Luke Voit being out with a sports hernia and the growing concerns about the pitching staff, it’s easy to forget Encarnacion is injured too.

In case anyone missed it, Encarnacion has been on the shelf since Aug. 3. He broke his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch in a game against the Boston Red Sox.

It was a poorly timed injury, especially since Encarnacion had established himself as a strong presence in New York’s lineup. He has hit .238 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs since being acquired from the Seattle Mariners in June.

Granted, the loss of Edwin Encarnacion hasn’t crippled the Yankees. But even still, with the dog days of August in full swing and the offense looking sluggish, his return is just what the doctor ordered for the stretch run.

But, why Edwin?

The great thing about Edwin Encarnacion is he doesn’t really make sense for the Yankees. The lineup was already stacked with the likes of Aaron Judge and MVP candidates in DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres before he arrived. Moreover, Voit and LeMahieu already had first base nailed down.

Still, adding Encarnacion made sense. Seattle was looking to sell high-priced players faster than Lucy van Pelt peddling discount psychiatric help. At the same time, the Yankees needed a banger to compensate for Giancarlo Stanton’s multitude of injuries.

Throw in Encarnacion having a then-American League-leading 21 homers along with a line of .241/.356/.531, and the move made even more sense. From both power and on-base standpoints, Encarnacion was a fine addition to an already strong team.

A perfect fit

And stats aside, he fits right in with the young Yankees clubhouse. Ranking fourth in MLB with 4.41 pitches per plate appearances is just the cherry on top. For someone 36 years old on a team whose average age is 29.5, Encarnacion became one of the guys almost immediately.

Just think about the Yankees’ team dynamic for a bit. Sure, the 84-47 record implies strong performers across the board, but this squad is different. Didi Gregorius has secret handshakes for each of his teammates. Everyone rallied around veteran outfielder Brett Gardner after he was ejected from a game for banging his bat on the dugout’s ceiling.

Of course, Encarnacion’s personal Yankees quirk has become a stuffed parrot. He was gifted one after hitting a home run in Minnesota as an homage to his “Walk the parrot” home run trot.

The man has been with New York less than a full season and yet, he has been treated by fans and teammates alike as though he has been in the Bronx for years.

A void in the lineup

Granted, Edwin Encarnacion’s injury did anything but sink the Yankees. Thanks to players embracing the infamous “Next man up” philosophy, the team has gone 14-8 in the games since his injury.

Except, the Yankees right now are in something of a tailspin. New York has lost five of its last six games, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics. The Yankees were outscored 17-9 at Oakland Coliseum and just couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities. They found themselves playing catch-up early and often.

We can play the blame game with the pitching staff all we want, but the offense is just as responsible for the slump. LeMahieu, who led the AL in batting average for months, has five hits in his last 27 at-bats. He’s still batting .330 but now trails Houston Astros outfielder Michael Brantley, who leads with a .337 average.

Also, let’s not forget the rest of the lineup is banged up too. Aaron Hicks’ switch-hitting power has been out with an elbow strain since Aug. 3. Gregorius and the ever-dangerous Gary Sanchez have looked good as of late, but still streaky. Stanton has ramped up his activity, but how well he’ll perform the rest of the way is truly anybody’s guess.

Now, let’s go back to Encarnacion. Per Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, he has resumed baseball activities and will be back soon. What better way for the Yankees’ offense to wake back up than with the parrot walker himself?

It’s just how Edwin Encarnacion fits on the team. He’s a folksy veteran who doesn’t do much more than hit home runs and work great at-bats. These skills can energize a tired squad for the stretch run. The sooner he gets back on the field, the better.

Final thoughts

All in all, Edwin Encarnacion’s absence is not the sole reason for the Yankees’ recent struggles. The pitching staff is still banged up as Luis Severino inches closer to a return. The team itself has had only two days off so far this month. One of them was less so a day off and more a day to adjust to west coast time.

Injuries to key players aside, the Yankees are probably exhausted as a whole. Playing in a humid and sticky New York August only exacerbates everything.

The point is, even with an eight-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, New York needs a shot in the arm. Encarnacion getting back in the lineup and just working good at-bats regardless of results provides exactly that. His return makes the lineup more powerful which means better pitches to hit for everyone.

He may not seem like a huge loss, but Edwin Encarnacion is vitally important to this Yankees lineup. If he can come back soon and in top form, New York will look even more dangerous as it enters the playoffs.


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