TAMPA — After three-plus months of waiting, the Yankees’ Luke Voit is among the players relieved the MLB lockout is over.
“It was a good feeling getting up today and knowing I have a job again,” Voit said Friday, a day after MLB and the Players Association reached a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement.
The conclusion came only after the first work stoppage in the sport in more than two decades. As commissioner Rob Manfred noted when he announced the deal on Thursday, there’s still work to do to smooth things over after what was a contentious fight.
“They locked us out and it took a while to get discussions going,” Voit said of the delay following the Dec. 2 start of the lockout. “That was frustrating on our end, but we were ready to go at any point.”
Voit’s concern wasn’t only for his fellow players.
“The fans are everything in this game,” Voit said following a workout at a local high school, where he was joined by teammates DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, as well as other MLB players.
“We’re the product on the field, so we just want to be there for them,” Voit said. “We just didn’t want to lose fans and keep pushing this and keep pushing this. They deserve for us to be out there already. We still got to 162 [games]. That was a common goal between both parties.”
Everyone wants to play,” LeMahieu said. “It’s a business, too.”
Now, they need to get physicals, with a mandatory report date of Sunday before a shortened spring training.
“I had a feeling [a deal was close] a few times already, so I didn’t get my hopes up [Thursday] before it was official,” LeMahieu said. “Now it’s all about figuring everything out, how to get down here, when to get down here and when to start. I’m just excited to get going again.”
And after the dust settled, several Yankees did Friday what they’ve done consistently in recent weeks during the MLB lockout: They played ball, something they did for the last month-plus in order to stay in shape in the event of a deal.
They’re not alone, which is why LeMahieu doesn’t think the abbreviated spring training — which will be fewer than four weeks rather than the typical six — will affect the game that much.
“I don’t think it’ll have that big an impact,” LeMahieu said. “I think everyone has been working and is ready to get going. I don’t think any of us sit and watch TV in the offseason. I think everyone is physically ready to go.”
Voit said all the offseason preparations are not the same as the real thing, which is what he’s looking forward to.
“We try to do everything we can to stay ready,” Voit said of taking live batting practice and ground balls in the field. “I want to get my baseball pants on and step in the batter’s box and have an at-bat.”
He pointed to the truncated spring training 2.0 of 2020, after COVID-19 shut down the sport for three months as proof players would be fine by Opening Day on April 7.
The process began in earnest on Thursday, when team officials could contact players again for the first time since the beginning of the work stoppage.