Brett Gardner will get by with a little help from his friends.
The Yankees activated the outfielder on Friday after a stint on the injured list with a sore left knee. But unlike the Gardner who began the season as a fourth outfielder — and eventually became an everyday player as more and more Yankees joined the legion of injured — this time he will have more of a cushion.
Manager Aaron Boone said that while he doesn’t necessarily think he’ll change Gardner’s usage too much, he might be able to get more of a blow now that the Yankees have five outfielders.
“He’ll have a day off here and there,” Boone said, “and obviously, with Cam [Cameron Maybin] back now and for that matter [Aaron] Hicks and [Aaron] Judge back and [Mike] Tauchman, what he’s been able to do, there’s probably more days in there as long as we continue to stay healthy. And I’ll give him those days probably. But I view him as physically good to go.”
Gardner, who batted ninth Friday and went 0-for-3, said the knee will require regular “maintenance” but that he otherwise felt ready for his return.
Gardner, who will turn 36 on Aug. 24, played in all but six of the Yankees’ first 98 games, starting 84. Before his injury, he was on pace to play in 153 games, which would have been second most in his career (159 in 2011).
He was scratched on July 21 after an MRI showed inflammation in the knee and was placed on the IL four days later. He went into Friday’s game with a .243/.325/.460 slash line, 15 homers, 41 RBIs and 56 runs.
Gardner’s injury accelerated Maybin’s timeline a bit. Maybin went on the IL on June 22 with a left calf strain, and the Yankees activated him last week despite preferring that he play in more rehab games. Meanwhile, another outfield option, Clint Frazier, is working on his defense in Triple-A.
“Our situation this year has been such to where we’ve had to lean on him pretty heavily, so we’ll do what we have to do,” Boone said when Gardner was first scratched last month. “And Gardy, I feel like as much as anyone, age or not, is prepared for the rigors of it all. But we’ll certainly be mindful of [his playing time].”