SEATTLE — The Yankees continued to gradually work Didi Gregorius back into the lineup on Saturday night.
Gregorius, activated from the disabled list Friday, was inserted into that night’s game against the Mariners in the sixth inning. He started Saturday night’s game, and Aaron Boone said the plan was for the shortstop to play about six innings.
“I don’t expect him to play the whole game,” Boone said. “He responded well to the first test [Friday night], came in feeling good, so excited about where he’s at.”
Gregorius went 0-for-3 before being replaced by Adeiny Hechavarria, who singled in the ninth to help the Yankees add an insurance run in their 4-2 victory over the Mariners.
Gregorius, who entered the game with a .269/.333/.481 slash line, 22 home runs and 74 RBIs in 119 games, missed 16 games with a left heel contusion, and his inability to play in any rehab games is the reason for “easing” him back into things, Boone said.
“Any time you have a player the caliber of Didi, it’s hard to keep him out of there,” Boone said. “We obviously missed him while he was gone and are excited to get him back, but we also want to be smart about how we bring him back and get him up to full speed.”
After Friday’s game, Gregorius smiled and said “I’m ready to go,” but he understands the deliberate pace.
Gregorius, who said the heel “felt really good,” is happy to be doing more than just sitting and cheering. “You try to help the team,” he said, “but you can’t do much on the bench.”
Gary Sanchez caught Masahiro Tanaka on Friday night and rebounded well after his awful game Wednesday night, when he was charged with two passed balls and saw two wild pitches get by him in the first inning of an 8-2 loss to Oakland.
“Proud of him for bouncing back,” Boone said. “That’s one of the things I talked to him about, even within that game, is ‘keep going, fight, compete.’ I thought he did a good job of turning the page. I thought he was really on a good page with Masa where they worked really well together for the second time in a row, and there’s no question Gary had a hand in that.”
Austin Romine caught Lance Lynn in Saturday night’s game. “I’ll have Gary for CC [Sabathia on Sunday],” Boone said.
Judge still swinging
Aaron Judge (chip fracture in right wrist), who has been hitting balls off a tee all week, progressed to hitting in the cage against a live arm Saturday. Before heading into the cage, he put in a full workout on the field, including throwing at a distance.
“Another step forward for him,” Boone said. “We’re still continuing on, and even upping the load today.”
Aroldis Chapman (left knee tendinitis) has been working out at the minor- league complex in Tampa and has begun throwing flat-ground sessions, most recently on Friday.
“Everything went well [Friday]. He was out to 90 feet,” Boone said.
There still is no timetable for the closer’s return.
After hitting two home runs Saturday night, the Yankees have an MLB-best 232 homers in 142 games. They are on pace to hit 265, which would break the MLB record of 264 set by the 1997 Mariners. They have homered in 15 of 16 games, hitting a total of 30 in that span.
When Andrew McCutchen homered Friday night, he became the third player to homer for both the Yankees and Giants in the same season, joining Dale Long in 1960 and Johnny Mize in 1949.