Yankees activate Holliday as rosters expand

Montgomery, Heller, Mitchell, Kratz also added for stretch run

Yankees activate Holliday as rosters expand

NEW YORK -- The Yankees welcomed back a key piece of their lineup on Friday evening, reinstating designated hitter Matt Holliday from the 10-day disabled list as rosters expanded from 25 to 40 players for the season's final month.

The club also recalled pitchers Ben Heller, Bryan Mitchell and Jordan Montgomery from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre while signing catcher Erik Kratz to a Major League contract and selecting him to the 40-man roster. Pitcher Luis Cessa was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

Holliday missed 25 games with a left lumbar strain, but he provided the Yankees with some pop when healthy, batting .229/.319/.430 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs in 88 games this season.

"It's exciting," Holliday said. "You look around the room and you start to see the capabilities that we have. We have so much depth that we'll be able to rest guys and keep guys fresh and still put out a lineup that's very dangerous. I'm excited about our changes.

"I'm sure you'd like to have a huge lead like the Dodgers, but we have a chance to play important baseball in September. It makes it more fun and with the weather starting to turn, it feels like you're getting closer to the playoffs."

The 37-year-old Holliday batted .256 (11-for-43) with six runs, a double, six RBIs and six walks during his Minor League rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Tampa and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and manager Joe Girardi said he has received positive reports.

"He's gotten better. He's started to swing the bat better," Girardi said. "He's started to see some impact on the baseball and it looked like his timing was coming back."

Girardi suggested that Holliday's presence could be helpful for rookie Aaron Judge, whose performance has slipped in the second half. Holliday said that he has been texting with Judge during his time away from the club.

"I've been through what he's been through and there's no need to panic," Holliday said. "When you look at the body of work, he's had a great season. Sure, it's been a little bit rough and it's not the production that he had in the first half, but I just know who he is as a person. I know the talent and I know that these things come and go.

"He's going to be fine, and I think it looks like the timing is going to be awesome, because I think when you come out of these things -- especially when you have the talent that he has -- it comes out big."

Montgomery returned to the Majors quickly after starting the second game of New York's doubleheader against the Indians on Wednesday, in which he served as the Yanks' 26th man. The 24-year-old left-hander is 7-7 with a 4.15 ERA in 24 starts, and Girardi said that the Yankees have not yet determined when he will rejoin the rotation.

"We're still talking about it," Girardi said. "We'll probably go to a five-man rotation this time through and then probably get back to a six-man after that, just because of the [Sept. 7] day off we don't want guys having seven days. We still have to make sure that everyone is aware of what we want to do before we announce it."

Heller, 26, has thrown 2 1/3 scoreless innings for the Yankees this season, while Mitchell, also 26, is 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA in 27 innings with the big league club.

Kratz, 37, was acquired from the Indians on Thursday after batting .270 with 13 homers and 37 RBIs in 86 games for Triple-A Columbus. He provides the Yankees with catching depth as Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez await word on the respective appeals of their suspensions.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.