Edwin Encarnacion made it clear he intends to be in the lineup when the Yankees open the American League Division Series on Friday night against the Twins at Yankee Stadium.
He did it very politely, too.
“Yes, sir,” Encarnacion answered on Wednesday afternoon when asked if he’d be ready to play by Friday.
"Yes, sir,” Encarnacion said when asked if he was swinging 100 percent on Wednesday during a simulated game before the Yankees’ official workout.
Encarnacion has been out since Sept. 12 with a left oblique strain. The Yankees had hoped he could get some at-bats before the regular season ended on Sunday, but that did not happen. So simulated games on Tuesday and Wednesday had to do.
"I feel great,” Encarnacion said. “I’m happy to be here. We have a competitive team. Looking forward to playoff season.”
On Wednesday, Encarnacion hit against lefthander Jordan Montgomery. The results were positive for the 36-year-old, who hit .249 with 13 homers, 37 RBIs and an .856 OPS for the Yankees after coming from Seattle in a trade on June 15.
Overall, Encarnacion hit .244 with 34 HRs, 86 RBIs and an .875 OPS. Manager Aaron Boone loves penciling the veteran’s name into the lineup, and said if Encarnacion is healthy enough to play he could start at designated hitter or even first base.
"He came into today feeling good,” Boone said. “Looked good out there today swinging the bat. Smoked a couple of balls out there, hit a homer, and [Tuesday] really cut loose with some. I think in his mind, he swung aggressively with a couple when he swung and missed — where you’re going to notice it probably — and I think he got through that. I think [Tuesday] was a little confidence-builder as far as the ability to let it go, and then coming in today feeling like he’s ready. Hopefully we get through today and make that decision.”
The Yankees’ first base, third base and DH situations are still up in the air, although less so if Encarnacion is ready to play on Friday.
Gio Urshela, who was removed from Sunday’s regular-season finale at Texas in the fourth inning with a sprained left ankle, said he is “ready to go.”
If Encarnacion is the DH, Urshela could start at third with DJ LeMahieu at first. Or LeMahieu could start at third with slumping Luke Voit or even surging Mike Ford at first against the Twins’ all-righthanded rotation.
Of course, with four days off between the regular-season finale and the ALDS opener, who’s hot and who’s not may not mean anything to the Yankees. The players are trying to keep sharp with three straight days of workouts, which is probably good for players who need time to heal such as Encarnacion, Urshela and Gary Sanchez, but not so good for the healed Giancarlo Stanton, who is going into the playoffs with only 72 plate appearances after his return from the injured list on Sept. 18.