Gio Urshela leaves game but Yankees think cold affected his back, not injury

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Kristie Ackert, New York Daily News
·4 min read
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Gio Urshela left Wednesday night’s game when his  back tightened up on him, but the Yankees are optimistic that it was just a result of the cold and not an injury issue. In fact, they did not send him for medical tests before leaving for Cleveland, Aaron Boone said.

“I think they feel that it’s gonna be something that is day to day,” the Yankees’ manager said. “I think it just locked up a little bit probably in the cold before his last at-bat. I think he even probably maybe could have continued (playing), but we’ll see how he is after getting some treatment here.

“I don’t think it’s anything too serious,” Boone added.

Urshela had just been moved into the clean-up spot Wednesday night as the Yankees’ only hot bat right now. He went 1-for-3 before leaving the game.

HICKS BACK

Aaron Hicks was back in the starting lineup Wednesday, a day after the Yankees’ struggling center fielder was left out of it to work on his swing. Hicks drew a big pinch-hit walk in the eighth on Tuesday and scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch. That — and conversations with hitting coach Marcus Thames — was enough for Aaron Boone to think he’s ready to start working his way back again.

“I just felt good about the day yesterday and had conversations with Marcus postgame last night. Just felt like I wanted to get him back in there today,” the Yankees’ manager said.

Hicks is hitting just 160/.236/.240 with a home run and 14 strikeouts on the season. He is 1-for his last 15.

Boone sat him to start Tuesday’s game, saying he wanted to give him a chance to relax and work with Thames. Boone also sat the struggling Clint Frazier, who has yet to drive in a run this season, and had him back in the lineup for the two-game series finale against the Braves at the Stadium Wednesday night. Rougned Odor, who was also benched Tuesday, was not back in the lineup.

Boone has expressed confidence in Hicks — and all hit hitters ― getting back on track. He just wanted to give Hicks a chance to step back and not keep pressing to turn it all around in one at-bat.

“Aaron’s in a good mental space and had a good day yesterday, obviously had a really important quality at-bat for us in the inning in which we grabbed the lead,” Boone said. “I thought it just made sense today.”

NEARING FREEDOM

The Yankees are very close to achieving the 85% vaccination rate among the traveling party that will allow them more freedom under MLB’s coronavirus health and safety protocols this season.

“I think we’re as close as you can be but not yet, because it factors in the other site as well. So like, here we are, I think over 90% (vaccinated),” Boone said of the major league team. “I think we’re just at about 84% overall still, because there’s still some people that haven’t gotten a second shot. So we’re very close.”

A team spokesman said that they are waiting for some Tier 1 employees to clear the 14-day waiting period after their second dose of the shot.

MLB and the union offered to loosen the protocols for teams that had 85% of their traveling party vaccinated. Among the freedoms they provide for individuals who are fully vaccinated (two weeks after the last dose) are that they can gather on team planes, trains or buses again and be at indoor gatherings without masks or distancing with other vaccinated people away from the ballpark and team facilities. Testing can be reduced from every other day to twice a week and vaccinated family or household members can stay at the team hotel on the road.

DOMINGO ON THURSDAY

As expected the Yankees will recall Domingo German and start him on Thursday in the series opener in Cleveland. The righthander was sent down to the alternate site after two starts because the bullpen needed a fresh arm ― and with two days off in the last week they didn’t need a fifth starter.

German pitched just seven innings in those two starts, which contributed to the Yankees needing a fresh arm for the bullpen.

German missed the end of the 2019 season and playoffs and all of the 2020 season serving an 81-game suspension under the domestic violence policy. He had looked sharp in spring training, but struggled in his two starts.

He allowed seven earned runs in those seven innings pitched. He also gave up four home runs.

That’s not a new issue.

In 2019, German’s breakout season, he gave up 30 home runs in 27 appearances. In fact, he has given up at least one homer in 12 straight starts, dating back to July 18, 2019.

German attacks the strike zone with his fastball, but when he misses it leads to long shots.

“When they were down there and did the alternate camp, I wanted to work on a fastball command. It’s one of the things that we wanted to improve,” German said Wednesday through a translator. “And therefore, my main pitch will be more effective, sharp.”