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Rizzo returns to Yankees' lineup, Chapman back in bullpen

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

New York Yankees' Anthony Rizzo grounds into a run scoring double play during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

NEW YORK – Anthony Rizzo is back in the Yankees' lineup after a bout with COVID-19, and closer Aroldis Chapman also was activated Wednesday before New York's series finale against the Boston Red Sox.

Rizzo, acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on July 29, started at first base and batted second. The three-time All-Star had been sidelined since Aug. 8 after testing positive for the coronavirus.

“Excited obviously to have him back,” manager Aaron Boone said. "I think that's the one thing we'll probably have to watch is the stamina part of things.”

Chapman had been on the 10-day injured list retroactive to Aug. 6 with left elbow inflammation. Boone said the left-hander will move right back into the closer role.

Rizzo became the latest key player to return from the COVID-19 injured list in recent days for the surging Yankees, following ace Gerrit Cole, catcher Gary Sánchez and lefty starter Jordan Montgomery.

The outbreak occurred after New York got back from playing six games against the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins in Florida, where COVID-19 cases were surging.

Rizzo made his debut with the Yankees on July 30 at Miami and got off to a fast start with his new team, hitting .281 with three homers and six RBIs in his first nine games for New York.

Incumbent first baseman Luke Voit was on the injured list when Rizzo arrived. Voit was reinstated Aug. 8, the day after Rizzo tested positive, and has been productive at the plate lately with nine RBIs in his last nine games.

After hitting a homer Tuesday against the rival Red Sox and driving in the decisive runs in both ends of a doubleheader sweep, Voit made it clear he isn’t ready to step aside at first base for Rizzo.

"I deserve to play just as much as he does,” said Voit, last year's major league home run leader.

“I finally feel like I’m hitting my stride after getting a week’s worth of games under me,” he added. “You know, I was top-10 MVP (voting) last year and I’ve been a great player for this organization for the last three years. I’m not going down. I want to play."

Voit was not in the starting lineup Wednesday.

Boone said he spoke with the slugger and foresees plenty of chances for him to play a significant role. Boone said Voit is completely on board, too.

“This is all about us as a team right now,” Boone said. “Let it play out.”

The 30-year-old Voit has been hampered this season by a partially torn meniscus in his left knee that required surgery in spring training, and a strain in his right oblique. He has six homers, two in the past three days.

“I led the league in home runs last year and I feel really good again," Voit said Tuesday night. "Obviously the injury bug is the reason (Rizzo is) here, because of me, but obviously I hope Booney can do whatever he can to get me some consistent at-bats.”

After scuffling throughout the first half, New York has climbed into playoff position for the first time since May 30 despite a rash of COVID-19 cases this year.

Since the All-Star break, star outfielder Aaron Judge, third baseman Gio Urshela and catcher Kyle Higashioka also have tested positive, along with relievers Wandy Peralta, Jonathan Loaisiga and Clay Holmes. All of them are back except Holmes, although Urshela returned to the injured list Aug. 3 for a left hamstring strain.

To make room on the roster for Rizzo and Chapman, the Yankees optioned outfielder Jonathan Davis and right-hander Nick Nelson to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Also, outfielder Trey Amburgey was reinstated from the 10-day injured list and returned as a replacement player to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Amburgey had been on a minor league rehab assignment.

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