The Yankees are not where anyone expected them to be, battling for a bottom seed in the playoffs as the shortened regular season heads into the home stretch. But they also weren’t expected to be playing with a depleted roster, beaten down by key injuries.
Maybe they'll be getting some good news soon. Before the Yankees beat the Orioles, 6-0, in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Friday, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge were on the field working out, hopeful of returning in time for the playoff push.
With 15 games remaining after Friday, the Yankees don’t have much time to get them back and little time for them to work their way into form. But help is needed, and by next weekend, it could arrive.
“Yeah, I would say they’re pretty healthy,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Friday afternoon. “But there’s also a building up, the progressions of running bases, the agility stuff, that endurance, making sure when they’re entering a game we feel it’s safe. You’ve got to go through some protocols and some buildups to get back to a point you’re in a major-league game and the rigors that go with that. I would say they’re very close. They’re both feeling well. They’re both doing well. So hopefully we’re in the final days before they get some at-bats and are playing and back with us."
Of the 45 games the Yankees will have played after Friday, Stanton was in 14 and Judge got into 18. The high expectations for the season wilted with their injuries as Stanton suffered a strained left hamstring that has sidelined him since Aug. 8. Judge went down three days later with a strained calf muscle, and after returning for one game on Aug. 26, he was back on the injured list again with calf tightness.
But with both feeling healthy, Boone said they could head to the team's alternate site in Moosic, Pennsylvania, to get at-bats this week and be back with the team next weekend. At least that's the Yankees' hope.
“Yeah, they’re kind of finishing up their final kind of progressions,” Boone said. “Giancarlo is running the bases today, also hitting out there. If everything goes well this weekend, you could see them getting some at-bats in Scranton and then with us shortly after that.”
Boone said he is confident that there is enough time left in the season to get them going. The return of those two finally would make the Yankees whole again, with the exception of pitcher James Paxton, who had a setback this week in his rehab from a strained forearm.
“He’s just dealing with some soreness, so we’re kind of going day-by-day with him right now,” Boone said. “He played catch Wednesday and came out of it a little bit sore.”
Boone said he is not ruling out a return this season for Paxton but added that if he makes it back, it could be in a bullpen role.
“It’ll be challenging, but we’ll see how day by day goes,” Boone said. “I still think there’s a chance on some level he could. But we’ll just have to see how the next couple days unfold.
“We may have no other option [than using him in relief]. If we run out of time, he gets to the point where, it’s obviously going to be difficult at this point, having not gone on the mound, to build him up to a starter’s level. So we’ll see where the next couple of days go, see if he’s able to build up to any kind of an option for us, and that may obviously be in a smaller role than as a starter.”