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Yankees manager Aaron Boone counting the days until Didi Gregorius' return from injury

Yankees' Didi Gregorius stretches before a Gulf Coast

Yankees' Didi Gregorius stretches before a Gulf Coast League baseball game Monday, May 20, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. Gregorius is playing for the first time since having Tommy John surgery.  Credit: AP/Chris O'Meara

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Didi Gregorius’ rehab clock officially started Saturday night when he took the field for high Class A Tampa. While the Yankees have done well without Gregorius, one of the biggest stars on their crowded injured list, Aaron Boone nonetheless is counting the days until his return.

“Gleyber Torres has gone over and played a really good shortstop for us,” Boone said. “But Didi, he’s such a reliable player. He’s always rock-steady on defense. As a lefthanded hitter in our lineup that for the most part this year has been a little righthanded-heavy, he gives us a little bit of balance. To have a premium middle-of-the-diamond defender who can also swing the bat like he does from the left side and just be this steady, reliable player, even though things have gone well, you miss him.”

Because Gregorius’ rehab to this point has “gone how we hoped every step of the way,” Boone said, he is not expected to need the maximum 20 days that a rehab assignment can last. After playing two or three days with Tampa, Gregorius is expected to be transferred north, likely to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Double-A Trenton also could be an option, depending on the respective teams’ schedules.

“The good thing is, as he’s worked his way back, he’s been able to rack up a lot of at-bats,'' Boone said. "Between live [batting practice] at-bats, sim games, extended spring games, he’s gotten quite a number of at-bats. Now it’s just about getting the bounce-back, building him up to be able to play nine innings and bounce back and those kinds of things. So far it’s gone really well.”

Boone said when Gregorius does return, it will not be a case of the Yankees easing him into playing time.

“When he comes back, he’ll be essentially ready to play every day,” Boone said. “I’m sure he’ll get his day off a week, but when he comes back and is ready to go, he’s coming back as a regular.”

Regardless of when Gregorius returns, Boone foresees the Yankees staying with a three-man bench.

Room for Tulo?

Troy Tulowitzki, on the IL with a left calf strain since April 4, is nearly ready to start extended spring training games. But with Gregorius closing in on a return, Gio Urshela continuing his stellar play in the field and at the plate and the emergence of rookie infielder – and sometimes outfielder – Thairo Estrada, it’s a fair question whether there’s still a spot on the roster available for Tulowitzki.  

“Every time you think you have something figured out with our roster situation this year, it has a way of changing,'' Boone said. "More people you can get ready to go, the better decision options we have.”

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