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Brett Gardner 'thrilled' former Yankees prospect Dustin Fowler is back in the majors

Fowler, who was injured in his debut last year with the Yankees before his first at-bat, pinch hit for the Athletics on Wednesday.

Dustin Fowler of the Athletics lines out to

Dustin Fowler of the Athletics lines out to second base in his first major-league at bat in the seventh inning against the Astros at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. Credit: Getty Images / Ezra Shaw

At the time, Brett Gardner called it “one of the worst things I’ve seen on a baseball field.”

It was last June 29 in Chicago when Dustin Fowler, a top Yankees outfield prospect, made his big-league debut. Due to lead off the top of the second inning, Fowler was denied his first big-league at-bat when he ran into an exposed metal box at full speed while chasing a foul ball and suffered a gruesome knee injury. Fowler, who underwent surgery for an open rupture of his right patella tendon the next day, was dealt to the A’s later in the summer as one of three prospects the Yankees sent to Oakland in exchange for Sonny Gray.

Fowler, 23, was called up Wednesday and made his debut later that night as a pinch hitter against the Astros, popping out in the seventh inning. He’ll be in the Bronx this weekend with the A’s for a three-game series at Yankee Stadium beginning Friday.

“Very happy for him,” Gardner said before Thursday’s game against the Red Sox. “That was a pretty scary injury he went through. I can’t imagine an injury like that, especially not getting an opportunity to hit [in your big-league debut]. Looking forward to seeing him. I’m thrilled he’s back.”

Old friends

Gray is scheduled to start Friday’s game against his former team, which made him the 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft, for the first time.

“I don’t think it’s something that’s weird, I think [it’s] definitely exciting,” Gray said. “There’s obviously a ton of familiar faces over there. It will be familiar, it’ll be fun. The best-case scenario for me is if we can come out with a victory.”

Gray has pitched well in his past two starts, allowing four earned runs in 12 innings and lowering his season ERA from 7.71 to 6.00.

Bird starts rehab

First baseman Greg Bird (right ankle surgery) started at first base and batted second Thursday night for high Class A Tampa. He went 0-for-3 with an RBI. Outfielder Billy McKinney (left shoulder sprain) started in leftfield and went 0-for-1 with two walks.

Go for it

With a runner on second, none out and the Yankees trailing by a run in the eighth inning Wednesday night, Gleyber Torres got ahead 3-and-0, and after taking a curveball for a strike, he drew a walk to help get the Yankees’ four-run rally started. But the 21-year-old appeared more than ready and willing to swing, and for good reason. Aaron Boone isn’t big on take signs for his club.

“3-0’s a good pitch to hit,” Boone said. “Pitchers are really good, so when you have that count, yeah, for the most part, we let it rip.”

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