Aaron Boone better with pacemaker, returns to New York Yankees

TAMPA - New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he "can't believe" the improvement to his health after having surgery Wednesday to implant a pacemaker, and that he would have rejoined the club on Friday if not for COVID protocols.

Instead, Boone, entering his fourth season as manager of the Yankees, returned to the team Saturday and was back at his post during a rainy game against the Pirates in Bradenton, Florida.

"Felt good just to be at the ballfield again, competing with the guys," Boone said after the 3-2 loss in seven innings Saturday. "I felt really good. Wet day, glad we were able to get [the game] in and get guys the work they needed. But overall, it just felt really good to be back out."

Boone on Thursday addressed the media for the first time since taking an immediate medical leave of absence to undergo the procedure after symptoms of lightheadedness, low energy and shortness of breath over several weeks. Further testing indicated he had a low heart rate, necessitating the pacemaker. He underwent surgery on Wednesday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa and was released Thursday.

"I feel great. I can't believe how good I feel," Boone said Friday. "It makes me really glad that I got this done because, certainly in the last couple of months, I have not felt anywhere close to how I felt this morning. Really excited about it; excited to get back.

"I can say a couple days in now, me and my new buddy are doing quite well."

The 47-year-old Boone, who had open-heart surgery in 2009, said his heartbeat was "as low as the 30's," which was causing complications. The general medical consensus is that the ideal resting heart rate for an adult ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.

"Now that I've got (the pacemaker) it's made me realize that I wasn't feeling good, just energy level, just not myself. I felt like I had to reach for it every day in a way," Boone said. "And yesterday and even more so today, I just feel kind of ready to go and ready to kind of tackle things. (My cardiologist) said, 'this will be a pretty straightforward simple procedure, nothing like you've been through in the past. And it'll work right away, you'll notice it.' And he was right. I feel great."

Bench coach Carlos Mendoza had been acting manager until Boone's return.

"Now it comes down to intaking; making sure COVID-wise I'm good to go," said Boone, who has to clear COVID protocols before returning to work. "I think I'm ready to be in the dugout, but look, I'm not in any hurry. I feel like I can get a lot done and accomplish a lot just by being there. I have the utmost confidence in our guys. I have so much faith in our coaching staff."

Boone also said he was extremely grateful and humbled for the "overwhelming" support he had received, not only from the Yankees organization, but also across baseball. He also described the video message his players sent him while he was still at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.

"(All position players) were socially distanced, spaced out in their chairs, and Gardy (Brett Gardner) just kind of spoke for everyone. And then everyone just kind of chimed in with some with some smart aleck comments that were good," Boone said with a laugh. "It meant a lot. One of the great joys of this job is to be around the group I get to be around and get to lead a group of players that in many cases now I've been with several years and I have grown to really, really care about and love to see them."

General manager Brian Cashman said he was astonished to hear from Boone shortly after the procedure.

"I don't know the exact time of his procedure (Wednesday) afternoon, but in the 7:10pm range, I get a FaceTime. And it's Aaron Boone," Cashman said. "I pick up and the energy, how good he looked, the personality was so vibrant. And I'm like, 'Wow.'

"For him to have to go under, have this procedure, and within an hour or so he's back up and running as if nothing really happened at all, it was incredible. I know he's chomping at the bit to get back into that dugout, back into the Yankee uniform. But the greatest thing is that he just feels amazing. The newer version of him, I'm happy for him and happy for his family and happy for us."