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Yankees activate Zack Britton, designate Mike Ford for assignment

A bullpen staple of the past few years returns to the Bronx.

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to tonight’s game against the Phillies, the Yankees made a series of roster moves, bringing a familiar face back into the fold while sending another one packing. Lefty setup man Zack Britton was expected to be a pivotal member of the 2021 bullpen, just as he had the past few years. His spring training was derailed by surgery to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow, though, forcing him to miss the start of the season.

Britton has been rehabbing with various Yankees affiliates since the end of May and after a scoreless outing in Triple-A Scranton on Thursday, he was deemed ready to return. So the Yankees made it official, activating Britton from the 60-day IL and demoting Scranton Shuttle reliever Brooks Kriske. Given how much manager Aaron Boone has had to lean on late-inning arms Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga in the first third of the Yankees’ season, he’ll be ecstatic to have Britton back in the ‘pen.

The Yankees did need to make a 40-man roster move to activate Britton since he was returning from the 60-day IL rather than the 10-day. They could have simply designated Kriske for assignment since he’s 27 and doesn’t exactly seem to have a promising future. However, they elected to DFA another “Quad-A”-type player: Mike Ford.

The 28-year-old first baseman made a surprising splash onto the big-league scene in 2019 by stepping in for the injured Luke Voit and batting .259/.350/.559 with 12 homers in just 50 games, good for a 136 OPS+. It was a fun story for the undrafted former Ivy League star, but the next half of his MLB career turned into a nightmare. In 51 games across 2020 and 2021, Ford hit just .134/.250/.526 with 5 homers in 51 games, and a 48 OPS+.

Ford never got on a roll even remotely similar to 2019, and when given the chance to start every day again in 2021 with Voit back on the IL, he floundered — even given the low expectations set by the retired Jay Bruce. He was recently demoted in favor of rookie Chris Gittens, and since they fit similar profiles, there wasn’t really a need for both of them. This is especially true given Voit’s potential return on the not-too-distant horizon; he should begin a rehab assignment on Sunday. (In another rehab move, the Yankees also transferred starter Luis Severino from Low-A Tampa to High-A Hudson Valley. This seemed promising until he got hurt. Yippie!)

We’ll always have 2019, though. Much like Cameron Maybin and Mike Tauchman, Ford was another special story from that unlikely #NextManUp cast of characters, and if this is the last that we see of Ford in pinstripes, I’ll always remember 2019 far more than the latter seasons. Best of luck to him.