As the Padres’ Matt Carpenter made his return to The Bronx, he reminisced about his time with the Yankees — and rued the injury that cut it short.
Carpenter’s emergence at the age of 36 was the feel-good story of last season (aside from the 62 home runs by Aaron Judge).
At least it was until Carpenter fractured a bone in his left foot when he fouled a ball off it on Aug. 8, then rushed his return to be on the Yankees’ playoff roster.
He said he doesn’t regret the decision, but has caught himself thinking: What if?
“I think about it. But I try not to harp too much on it because it’s just something you can’t control. But it was certainly a bummer,” Carpenter said before his Padres beat the Yankees, 5-1, Friday night on a night when he went 0-for-5.
“Then pushed it. Probably pushed it more than I should have to come back and play in October, and it cost me the rest of my offseason. My foot just never healed. … But I don’t regret that either. I didn’t want to miss [the playoffs]. It certainly didn’t help with performance, but it was something I’ll never forget just being on the field in the Yankee uniform in the postseason.”
Carpenter had been a surprise, hitting .305 with 15 homers and 37 RBIs in just 47 games before that foul ball off his foot fouled his season.
Returning more quickly than he should have, he went just 1-for-12 with nine strikeouts in six playoff games.
“To see him grind his way to get back by the end of the season to be a part of it, to see how he impacted our clubhouse in such a positive way … I feel grateful that I got to spend a few months with him,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
“I wasn’t healthy, didn’t really have any at-bats under me, my timing wasn’t there, and just wasn’t able to do what I wanted to or was capable of doing,” Carpenter said. “But it is what it is. I just had to try to make the most of it, battle.”
Carpenter is suited for first and designated hitter, which he played Friday.
The Yankees had Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, a need in left field and youngsters such as Oswaldo Cabrera.
The fit just wasn’t there for Carpenter’s return.
“It was certainly something that I would’ve for sure entertained. … It just never really progressed to anything,” said Carpenter, who has posted a .663 OPS in 39 games with the Padres. “But I don’t have any regrets, and I’m sure they don’t either. It was just the way it worked out.”
Carpenter said the broken foot had not healed by December and that may have played a role in the Bombers not bringing him back.
“It could have. Also I think — I don’t want to put words in their mouths — but a lot of young players they really wanted to see produce, some really good guys coming up, and I’m not sure where I would’ve fit in,” said Carpenter, who praised the Yankees’ fans and his time in New York, while calling his former teammate, Judge, “the best player on our planet.”
“Just a special year all-in-all. To get the opportunity to come here and put on this uniform and play for this franchise in this city, something I’ll never forget. My kids and family, we still talk about it, just what a great ride it was. And I’m super thankful and still grateful that I got that chance.”