Yankees outfielder dealing with ‘back stiffness’

MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees, billy mckinney
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are prepping to face the Boston Red Sox in a much-anticipated second match of their three-game series this Saturday afternoon. After suffering a tough loss on Friday, with young gun Jhony Brito taking charge of the mound, the spotlight now turns to Gerrit Cole, hoping to steer the team back to winning ways.

Gerrit Cole: The Yankees’ Torchbearer

Gerrit Cole’s performance this season has been nothing short of remarkable, setting him leagues apart from his teammates.

Flaunting a commendable 2.76 ERA, 3.68 xFIP, and an average of 9.56 strikeouts per nine innings, Cole has also managed to maintain an 80.7% left-on-base rate. What’s more, his home run rate this year is the lowest since 2016. Having delivered a solid 156.1 innings so far, Cole aims to build on his momentum and rein in a recently resurgent Boston team.

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Billy McKinney: A Surprise Package

Just before the Saturday face-off, the Yankees disclosed some crucial information about outfielder Billy McKinney. Battling back stiffness, McKinney braved through Friday’s game but has opted to sit out the next.

At 28, McKinney has evolved into an indispensable cog in the Yankees’ machinery this season. A former first-rounder from 2013, he’s now in his sixth MLB season, though he’s clocked only 2.1 years in service time.

Sporting a batting average of .232 and a .322 OBP this season, McKinney’s stats further break down to six homers, 14 RBIs, a 26.6% strikeout rate, an 11.2% walk rate, and a commendable 103 wRC+.

These figures earmark this season as one of McKinney’s most fruitful stints professionally. His transformative journey, which saw him tweak his swing with the Triple-A affiliate team, has evidently paid off. Interestingly, McKinney’s 0.4 WAR matches the combined contributions of DJ LeMahieu, Josh Donaldson, and Giancarlo Stanton.

While McKinney’s role as a depth player is indisputable, relying on him as an everyday asset might not be the best strategy, a route the Yankees have occasionally taken this year. With the 2023 season’s end on the horizon, and unless the management decides to give Everson Pereira a nod, McKinney is likely to remain in the limelight.