The Yankees have started getting critical players back at the right time. Tuesday night, as the Blue Jays came into Yankee Stadium for a three-game battle for second place in the American League East, the Yankees had Giancarlo Stanton, Gio Urshela and Jonathan Loaisiga come off the injured list.
And while that was happening, Aaron Judge was taking live at-bats in Scranton as manager Aaron Boone was saying Judge could also be back sooner than expected, possibly before the Yankees leave Friday for Boston.
But, before Yankee fans get too excited, there was a very real reminder of how fragile a lineup this can be. Gleyber Torres was not in the starting lineup for the second straight game. Boone said he is dealing with a left quad issue.
“Gleyber is just dealing with a little bit of a quad,” Boone said. "He wanted to be in there today and I just felt like, especially coming out of the off day and having [had] off Sunday, I just feel like this is something I don’t want to become a bigger issue.
“So, we’ll kind of go day by day with him and make sure that it’s out of there completely before we get them back out,” Boone said. “He’ll be available off the bench similar to Sunday.”
Torres missed 13 games with a left quad and left hamstring strain last month. He returned on Sept. 5 and was 9-for-25 with five doubles and seven RBI in nine games — including a pinch-hit, two-run double on Sunday.
Still, the balance seems to be tipping back in the Yankees' favor with the return of key players with 13 games to play. Urshela, who had been dealing with a bone spur in his right elbow, and Loaisiga, who was out with a non-COVID and non-baseball medical condition, are big parts of the way the Yankees planned out their season.
But getting Stanton and Judge back would be game-changers.
Stanton has not played since Aug. 8 because of a strained left hamstring.
“Obviously he was in such a good place before he got injured. It was just his at-bat quality was just really really good,” Boone said. “Even when he went through a few games where he wasn’t getting hits, it was just good at-bat after good at-bat and obviously the threat that he brings. Hopefully in these last whatever we’re down to now, 13 games or so, he’ll be able to build up properly and rack up a lot of at-bats and most importantly go out and help us win ball games.”
The Yankees are cautiously optimistic they can keep Stanton in the lineup, even though history suggests that isn’t going to be easy.
To make room on the active roster, the Yankees optioned Miguel Andujar and Mike Ford. While Andujar had just started to find his swing, the Bombers chose to keep Thairo Estrada on the roster to make sure they had a backup shortstop.
Stanton missed 32 games, but in 14 games this season, he was 12-for-41 with three homers and seven RBI.
The 30-year old outfielder played just 18 regular-season games last year. He strained his left biceps the first weekend of the season. While rehabbing from that, Stanton also dealt with a strained left shoulder and then, as he was beginning to rehab, he strained his left calf. He returned to play six games before he jammed his knee running bases and missed 73 games before returning in September.
Stanton then suffered a right quad strain during the ALCS, playing in just two games of that series that ended the Yankees season.
This spring, Stanton played in one Grapefruit League game before he was sidelined by a strained right calf.
Stanton’s injuries last season contributed to the Yankees overhauling their medical and training staff over the winter. Boone thinks the proof of the Yankees buy-in to the new system will show down the stretch.
“I would say look, this whole year has been a little bit of an overhaul and a little bit of a change in philosophy,” Boone said. “But that’s obviously a much longer conversation, I would say his program and all of our players' programs have continued to evolve over the course of the year, as our new training strength and conditioning has kind of taken hold.”
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