by Randy Miller
KANSAS CITY — Yankees first baseman Chris Carter was an all-or-nothing guy playing for the Milwaukee Brewers last season.
His 206 strikeouts are one of the highest single-season totals in history — seventh to be exact — yet the right-handed slugger from Vegas made up for them and then some hitting 41 homers.
That’s what the Yankees thought they were getting in February when they made a late decision to sign the still-out-there free agent to a one-year, $3.5-million contract.
That’s not what they’ve been getting from the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder.
Carter’s first two months as a Yankee consisted of one big hit before Tuesday night, when he was 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in a 7-1 Yankees win over the Kansas City Royals.
Before this, Carter’s one shining moment was his three-run, pinch-hit homer in Pittsburgh that broke an eighth-inning tie in a Yankees victory back in April.
Finally, the big man showed a little something else almost two weeks after he went from struggling backup to struggling starter when Greg Birdwas placed on the DL with an ankle injury.
On a night left-hander CC Sabathia’s slump-busting six shutout innings was the big story and Gary Sanchez’ three-run homer that opened the scoring was the next biggest, Carter received the bronze for his bat work.
“I’m just trying to have good at-bats and make solid contact, and whatever happens from there happens,” Carter said.
Solid contact in the fourth inning resulted in a homer to center that put the Yankees’ fourth and fifth runs on the board.
About time, huh?
Even Carter feels that way.
“It gives you that confidence back,” said Carter, who now is hitting .232 with two homers, 10 RBIs and 28 strikeouts in 69 at-bats over 25 games, 16 of them as a starter at first base.
This could be huge for the Yankees because even though we haven’t a Carter hot streak, this guy is capable of going on an Aaron Judge 2017/Sanchez 2016-like homer binge.
Again, Carter hit 41 homers last season. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson did that just twice in his career, and he’s 14th all-time with 563 homers.
Maybe, just maybe, Tuesday was the start of something big … or at least the start of Carter being a semi-regular contributor, al least until Bird gets healthy and returns in perhaps 10 days to two weeks.
It seems more possible now than before because Carter is feeling himself again at the plate … which undoubtedly still will lead to a lot of strikeouts but maybe with more homers.
“”I don’t think it was (hitting) mechanics (than was an issue),” Carter said. “I think it was just timing and being ready for a fastball all the time and not getting beat by it.”
These first two months as a Yankees have been frustrating and rewarding at the same time for Carter, who is greatly enjoying being part of a first-place club after hitting those 41 homers last season for a team that finished 16 games under .500.
“Winning’s definitely a lot more fun than losing,” Carter said. “I’m just happy to be here. It’s an exciting group of guys and it’s fun to come to the ballpark every day.”
It’s even more fun contributing to a winner.
“You have to trust the process and keep working every day and build off of days like today,” Carter said.