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Yankees continue to adapt to start-and-stop season because of coronavirus

Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and catcher Gary

Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and catcher Gary Sanchez walk to the dugout before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 19, 2020. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

On Tuesday night in Atlanta, the Yankees will take the field for the first time in five days because of — what else? — COVID-19.

In this case, a Mets player and coach tested positive late last week, causing the three-game Subway Series at Citi Field over the weekend to be postponed.

The Yankees will open a two-game series against the Braves with Gerrit Cole taking the mound against a pitcher to be determined. It is the start of a busy stretch for the Yankees (16-9), who are in a dogfight with the Rays atop the AL East and who will play 33 games in the final 31 days of the season.

Included in that are doubleheaders against the Mets on Friday and Sunday as part of an originally scheduled three-game series at the Stadium. The third game of last weekend’s postponed series will be made up Sept. 3 at Citi Field. That gives the Yankees two remaining off days — Thursday and Sept. 14.

“All of this is challenging,” Aaron Boone said Sunday. “I don’t know if you could ever be totally prepared for all that 2020 has brought. I think you try each and every day to handle all that comes and try to be flexible, try to have that ability to adapt.”

The Yankees already have had to adapt a few times this season and, as is reflected in their record, have mostly handled those instances well. They received some early practice when the Marlins experienced a COVID-19 outbreak on their roster the first weekend of the season. Because the Marlins had just played the Phillies, the Yankees had their four-game home-and-home series against the Phillies postponed and instead went to Baltimore to face the Orioles.

“I mean, it’s the world we’re living in, and we understand that,” Boone said over the weekend, one in which the Yankees conducted two full-squad workouts at the Stadium. “It certainly is a little frustrating, especially when we haven’t necessarily been infected with it, but that’s the nature of this.

''I think we knew what we signed up for and, unfortunately, it’s happened to us now a couple of times. Doesn’t make it ideal, but we also understand that we have to deal with it, we have to be able to roll with the punches here in 2020, and that’s what we’ll do.”

The break might not have been the worst thing for the Yankees, who were swept by the Rays in a three-game series at the Stadium last week. While they no doubt would have preferred to get right back on the field after that setback, the pause did potentially cut into the time some of their injured players — and it’s quite a lengthy list — missed in terms of games.

Aaron Judge, for instance, placed on the injured list Aug. 12, is expected to be activated Tuesday.

Cole (4-0, 2.75) is coming off an outing last Wednesday against the Rays in which he received a no-decision in an eventual 4-2 loss after allowing two runs and striking out 10 in 6 2/3 innings. That game was most memorable because of Cole's reaction — on the mound and again afterward — to being removed in the seventh inning.

“I was in good position to finish it,’’ Cole said moments after the game. “[Boone] made the move before he even got out there, so it didn’t really matter whatever I said to him on the mound. What I said in my glove, I will leave it at that.’’

Boone that day and again 24 hours later said he wasn’t the least bit bothered by Cole's reaction.

“I never get upset when guys care about their craft and care about us and the team and the game,’’ Boone said. “I think that’s what we saw from Gerrit. He’s as good a competitor as there is. He’s an ace in this spot. I love the fact he wants the ball. When you’re playing for a lot, sometimes that spills over, the emotion, when there’s a lot on the line. I really don’t have an issue with it.”

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