Brian Cashman said he doesn’t think Didi Gregorius (left heel contusion) will be ready to return when the Yankees start a three-game series in Oakland on Monday.
“I think Seattle’s more likely,” Cashman said of the three-game set against the Mariners that begins Friday.
Just before the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason eligibility, the Yankees acquired shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Pirates as protection for as long as Gregorius is out.
“If it’s sooner, that would be great,” Cashman said. “It’s nice to have Hechavarria as an alternative as well in the event it takes a little longer than expected.”
And on Chapman . . .
Asked his confidence level that Aroldis Chapman, on the disabled list with left knee tendinitis, will be able to return this season at the level at whichi he was pitching, Cashman shrugged.
“I don’t know. I can’t tell you a level of confidence or not,” Cashman said. “Until he’s out there doing what we’ve seen him do in the past to the level he’s capable of doing it, it’s probably best for me to be cautious on that.”
Chapman pitched most of the season with the tendinitis before the pain became too much in an Aug. 21 game in Miami. The uncertainty with Chapman was one reason Cashman made the deadline moves he did, including the acquisition of Zach Britton.
“I can’t guarantee when we’re going to see Chappy, but we’re hopeful we’ll see him,” Cashman said. “Fingers crossed we get him back and put everybody else where we want them to be, but we also are thankful that we have players that are more than capable of doing the job. I think we’re better equipped than most to handle losing your closer for a period of time.”
Cashman did not paint an encouraging picture of struggling Greg Bird getting regular playing time anytime soon.
“It’s go time, and so Aaron Boone has had to make the difficult decisions as this has played out,” Cashman said.
He described Boone’s mindset as: “All right, we’re going to ride the hot hand now and whomever is playing the best is going to get the reps because we can’t wait any longer.”
That means continued time for righthanded-hitting Luke Voit, who started Saturday, and the switch-hitting Neil Walker. Bird — hitting .198 with a .672 OPS this season, including .122 with a .435 OPS in the month of August — will see time, but not nearly as much.
“I see a guy still trying to find it,” Cashman said. “I’m sure privately in the back of his mind, he’s saying, ‘Do not count me out.’ ’’
No Sheffield for now
The last-minute acquisitions of Andrew McCutchen and Hechavarria meant no Sept. 1 call-up for top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield.
The lefty recently has been pitching out of the bullpen with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as the Yankees planned for a scenario in September in which he might be needed in that capacity.
“He’s going to stay in play as a reliever down there and we’ll continue to evaluate,” Cashman said. “Clearly, we’re at a 40-man situation now where there’s no spots.”
Shane Robinson was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Hechavarria. Those benefiting from the roster expansion were righthander Luis Cessa, lefthander Stephen Tarpley and infielder Tyler Wade.
“I can’t rule out you won’t see him up here,” Cashman said of Sheffield. “But obviously we took who we took as of yesterday. We’ll be taking others as we move forward in September . . . We’re really high on the player and his time will be coming. But it’s obviously not on Sept. 1.”