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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 3/8/23

Ciuffo joins Yanks; Kahnle doesn’t want to rush his biceps injury; latest on the left field competition; Bombers discuss Peraza’s injury; Boone has fun encounter with a young fan

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

MLB Trade Rumors | Darragh McDonald: With all of Ben Rortvedt, Josh Breaux, and Austin Wells banged up and Kyle Higashioka on his way to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic, the Yankees suddenly found themselves very light on catching depth behind Jose Trevino. So they’ve found another backstop to help them out in the spring and to likely serve as a third-stringer once Higgy returns to New York.

The new catcher in camp is Nick Ciuffo, who signed a minor league contract with the Yankees on Monday. The 28-year-old played 21 games in the majors for the Rays and Orioles between 2018-21 and spent last year at Triple-A Charlotte in the White Sox organization. He’s a capable defender, but as is the case with most third-stringers, if Ciuffo ends up seeing significant time with New York in 2023, then the team will have bigger problems on their hands.

NY Post | Greg Joyce: Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle was diagnosed with right biceps tendinitis over the weekend, and his status for Opening Day became cloudy. Even though his manager, Aaron Boone, is not ready to rule him out for the beginning of the season, the pitcher wasn’t as optimistic.

“We’ll see what happens,” Kahnle said. “I’m going to take it slow just so I’m healthy and ready to go.” Taking it slow probably means his chances of opening the campaign on the active roster are uncertain at best.

Kahnle is in the middle of a 10-day shutdown from throwing. The bullpen arm signed a two-year, $11.5 million contract to rejoin the Yankees back in December.

NJ Advance Media | Randy Miller: The Yankees have implied that they prefer Aaron Hicks winning the left field job despite his uneven performance in the last two seasons and his injury issues. If he is ever going to lose the position, however, Oswaldo Cabrera is the man who probably sees most of the playing time there.

“He’s competing on some level for (left field),” manager Aaron Boone said of Cabrera. Also in the mix are on-and-off prospect Estevan Florial and non-roster invitees Rafael Ortega and Willie Calhoun. All of them, with the exception of Florial (.599 OPS), are having a great first couple weeks of camp: Hicks has a 1.077 OPS, Cabrera is at .980 with two homers, Ortega is at 1.760, and Calhoun has a 1.482 mark.

The wild card, at least before the deadline, is Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfielder Bryan Reynolds. The Yankees still have their sights on him, but the Bucs are apparently eager to hold on to him until at least July.

NJ Advance Media | Max Goodman: Oswald Peraza has been out of the Yankees lineup this week with a minor foot injury. He suffered the physical issue on Thursday’s win over Pittsburgh, tweaking his leg while running through the first-base bag. While he played on Saturday in a loss to the Rays, he has been out of the lineup since.

Boone doesn’t believe it’s anything serious or overly concerning, though “He kind of just hit the bag funny and his lower leg was bugging him a little bit,” said the skipper. “I don’t expect it to be an issue.”

The 22-year-old prospect has hit .222 (2-for-9) with two runs scored and a stolen base so far this spring and remains the favorite to win the shortstop gig, as long as he can return with no issues from his ailment. | Bryan Hoch: During the Yankees’ most recent game against the Pirates on Monday, Boone had time to play Rock, Paper, Scissors with a young fan. That’s right: It’s part of the magic of spring training.

The young kid challenged him to a game for a ball. After negotiating with the fan, the latter had his Yankees hat on the table. It was on (after he talked to his mom to see if he could bet his hat).

“He came back and said, ‘OK,’” Boone said. “We tied on the first one; I had to get his rhythm down. Then I two-nothinged him. No mercy.”

Boone, a nice guy, wasn’t going to take the fan’s hat. Nope: he gifted him the ball anyway, and gave him a nice story to tell his friends and family.