The Yankees’ bullpen will be bolstered on Friday afternoon. Left-handed receiver Justin Wilson was activated from the injured list on Friday and could make his season debut just in time for the Bombers to face the Rays — and their stable of relievers who all throw 98 mph.
Wilson’s move was expected because he had breezed through his rehab from shoulder tightness, feeling almost immediately ready after a few days rest. As he waited to be eligible to return from the IL, he made two simulated appearances against live hitters.
The Rays and Yankees are meeting for the first time since Tampa Bay eliminated the Bombers in the ALDS last season. The ending, with Mike Brosseau hitting the eventual game-winning home run off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning of the final game of the five-game series, did little to end the animosity between the two teams. Chapman began the season with a two-game suspension after instigating a near-brawl in September with a 101 mph fastball that was dangerously close to Brosseau’s head.
It sparked a rant from Rays manager Kevin Cash, who went after Yankees manager Aaron Boone and third-base coach Phil Nevin. With his remarks about “a stable of guys who throw 98,” he also implied a threat of retaliation.
It was the latest dramatic chapter in the Rays-Yankees rivalry, which was reignited in 2018. That was highlighted when CC Sabathia threw a retaliation pitch and then walked off the mound yelling at the Rays dugout.
The Yankees are especially sensitive to having one of their stars pitch inside. In recent years, this has resulted in a lot of chirping between the dugouts, as well as a lot of bad feelings.
While the Rays and Brosseau would not say publicly that his home run was sweet revenge, some did privately, their post-game celebration left no doubt about how they felt. On the field, the Rays danced to the Yankees’ signature Frank Sinatra ballad “New York, New York.”
And the Yankees will have to watch the Rays, who advanced to the 2020 World Series before losing to the Dodgers, celebrate again on Friday. Before Friday’s game, the Rays will raise their AL East division title banner and AL champion pennant.