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'It's all been weird and an adjustment' for Aaron Boone and the Yankees

Yankees manager Aaron Boone speaks to reporters during

Yankees manager Aaron Boone speaks to reporters during a press conference during spring training in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 12. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Yankees should have arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday and spent the day preparing for the season opener Thursday afternoon at Camden Yards.

The operative phrase being “should have.”

The coronavirus pandemic that has suspended much of the world’s activities means, of course, no 2020 Opening Day on Thursday, and no Opening Day for the foreseeable future.

That reality, though, hit home in the baseball world March 13 when Major League Baseball officially canceled spring training.

“I don’t know if tomorrow [Opening Day] necessarily hits it for me because we’ve been living that now for the last 10 days, two weeks, whatever it’s been since the plug got pulled,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday afternoon via conference call. “So that’s when it first started to become really weird.”

Boone began a roughly 17-hour drive back to his home in Greenwich, Connecticut, on March 17 and has been holed up there since then with his family, homebound other than the sporadic trip to the grocery store or to visit Gerrit Cole, who lives nearby, to play catch.

“It’s all been weird and an adjustment,” Boone said. “The selfish in my personal bubble of the world . . . the frustration of you get so close to Opening Day and the start of the season and it’s not here. All the work that goes into that, that’s disappointing. That’s frustrating. But you also temper it with this is all bigger than me and us and baseball, and right now is the time to do our part.”

Which at the moment is staying at home as much as possible.

Boone is keeping in touch with his coaching staff and players via cellphone and/or text. He estimated that about 10 players remain in Tampa working out at Steinbrenner Field, which closed to the public Monday but  still is open to those players wishing to use it on a limited basis.  

A pair of rehabbing players are among those who have been regulars at Steinbrenner Field the last 10 days — Giancarlo Stanton (Grade 1 right calf strain) and Aaron Judge (right rib stress fracture/collapsed lung).

“He's pretty much over the hump,” Boone said of Stanton. “He's pretty much run aggressively and done the things necessary so that if there were to be spring training games [now], he would likely be ready to roll for that.”

As for Judge, whose spring training never got started because of injuries traced back to a diving-catch attempt in the outfield last September, Boone said the rightfielder’s rib is “still in the healing phase” and that he will be reevaluated in a few weeks. Judge has progressed to the point of doing “some upper-body stuff,” Boone said.

The Yankees had two minor-leaguers test positive for COVID-19 in a four-day stretch around the time when big-league camps were shut down but, a spokesman said, there have been no other cases since, and no additional minor-leaguers have been tested or experienced symptoms of the virus. To date, no big-leaguers — with the Yankees or any other club — have tested positive.

As for when any semblance of a season can get underway, Boone, like everyone else, would be only guessing. But, he said, baseball will have a role in society's recovery from the pandemic.

“Our job, when we come back, ultimately is going to be bigger than the game and all of us as well,” he said. “As we've seen throughout time, sports can play a role in kind of healing, a diversion, a distraction, a sense of normalcy, all these kinds of things that we have a role in our society to play. We'll be eager to hopefully go out and do our part, and in our case, the focus will always remain the same of trying to be the best we can be and trying to go out and win another championship for our organization.”

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