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Could Gary Sanchez return to the Yankees lineup this weekend?

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez reacts after tagging out

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez reacts after tagging out Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 2. Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — All signs point toward Gary Sanchez returning to the Yankees lineup at some point this weekend against the Rangers.

“That’s the plan,” Sanchez said Tuesday through his interpreter. “The plan is to get back before the season ends.”

Sanchez, out since Sept. 12 with a left groin strain, went through a full workout, which included defensive work, Monday at the club’s minor league complex. Afterward, the catcher said he felt pain-free but still needed to see how he bounced back before making any guarantees about returning.

But after Sanchez took full BP on the field some five hours before first-pitch Tuesday night and then caught Masahiro Tanaka’s bullpen, the Yankees were comfortable in at last laying out a plan, though still in general terms, for him.

“Hoping it will be this weekend at some point,” Aaron Boone said.

The Yankees have a two-game series here against the Rays, are off Thursday, then start their final regular season series of the season Friday night in Arlington, Texas vs. the Rangers.

“He’s (Sanchez) a little bit behind Edwin (Encarnacion), still a few more things for him to pass, but he’s doing well,” Boone said. “(He was) catching today, out there hitting, running. Feel like he’s close but don’t have a definitive date yet.”

Sanchez, for the second straight day after intensive on-field work, did not feel anything in the groin.

“There’s nothing bothering me,” he said. “All the activity out there and (felt nothing). That’s what you’re looking for.”

Encarnacion back soon

Edwin Encarnacion, sidelined since Sept. 12 with a left oblique strain, put on a show — as Sanchez did — during early BP Tuesday.

“I’m probably going to wait until Friday,” Boone said of reinserting Encarnacion, who has 34 homers. “Feel like he’s probably ready. He’s kind of pushing to get in tomorrow, but with the off day Thursday and the ability to play three in a row possibly in Texas, my inclination is to wait until Friday. But feel like he’s pretty much ready to go.”

Happ plans

Boone will pitch J.A. Happ out of the bullpen Wednesday night but won’t use him in the same manner as CC Sabathia, who came in out of the bullpen Tuesday night.

“I’ll probably do it more of an opener style where we’ll have a guy (start), and then…he (Happ) can go like a starter. We won’t do that with CC but with Happ tomorrow we’ll do that, and he’ll pitch as deep as he can.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Boone had not yet named his starter for Wednesday night.  

Torres returns to lineup; Judge to the field

Gleyber Torres, who left Friday’s game against the Blue Jays after tweaking his right hamstring, started Tuesday at second base and hit third.

“Feel good that he’s ready to go,” Boone said of Torres, who leads the Yankees with 38 homers.

Aaron Judge, who banged up his right shoulder last Wednesday vs. the Angels attempting to make a diving catch and subsequently played three straight games vs. Toronto at DH, returned to right Tuesday night.

“I feel like the last couple of days he’s probably been ready to get back out there,” Boone said.

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