BALTIMORE — Thairo Estrada’s big-league debut will have to wait.
Estrada, one of the Yankees’ top prospects among position players, was optioned back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, two days after being called up. He was replaced on the roster by Gio Urshela, a more proven fielder, especially at third base.
Estrada, 23, was called up Thursday but did not appear in that afternoon’s 8-4 victory over the Orioles.
Urshela, 27, was not on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, so Didi Gregorius, recovering from Tommy John surgery, was transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room. He has played all four infield positions in the major leagues but mostly has been a third baseman.
“It was just making sure he was good to go,” Aaron Boone said of Urshela, who missed the first 1 ½ weeks of spring training games with a right Achilles issue. “He’s a guy with a roster situation is going to play a lot. He’ll play a lot of third base for us. Not in there tonight but will be in there tomorrow. An elite defender over there.”
Urshela, acquired from the Blue Jays for cash considerations last Aug. 4 and re-signed on Oct. 24, played in 167 games from 2015-18 with the Indians and Blue Jays and hit .225 with a .274 on-base percentage. But he’s been superb with his glove, to which the Yankees can attest.
With the Yankees trailing the Indians 4-1 in the fifth inning on Aug. 5, 2017, and Ronald Torreyes on third, Clint Frazier sent a chopper to third that Urshela had to jump for, and his momentum carried him into foul ground. With no chance to get Frazier, Urshela instead made a Derek Jeter-like jump-throw home, and his pinpoint delivery nailed the sliding Torreyes. Then-Yankees manager Joe Girardi called the play “as good as I’ve seen.”
After returning from the Achilles problem in spring training, Urshela hit better, batting .321 with a 1.023 OPS in 11 games.
Urshela said he made some “adjustments” to his swing during the offseason and smiled when he was asked to specify them.
“I can’t tell. It’s a secret,” he said. “When you get good results, it makes you feel comfortable. You make an adjustment and you see it pay off, yeah, you’re going to feel good about it.”
Said Boone: “I just think he’s using his body, using his strength, using his legs a little bit better overall.”
Andujar back on field, kind of
Miguel Andujar, placed on the injured list April 1 with a small tear in his right labrum, took ground balls on the field before Saturday night’s game, though he only fielded them and did not throw. Boone said that doesn’t mean he is ahead of schedule. The plan all along was to have Andujar be out for a couple of weeks but have him do some light baseball activities, including taking grounders and eventually throwing, and then reevaluate him to see if surgery is necessary.
“There’s a chance it’s not going to be a long thing,” Boone said. “There’s a chance, though, if it doesn’t go well, then it could be surgery, which compromises the season. So it’s kind of one or the other a little bit. We’re optimistic just because of the strength he’s showing in all of his testing and everything like that. We’ll see. It’s more about will he really be able to handle the throwing and tolerating that? That’ll be the telltale sign.”
CC about set
CC Sabathia will throw in the range of 60 to 70 pitches in a minor-league game on Monday in Tampa. “That in all likelihood will be his last start down there before he comes and joins us,” Boone said. He’s likely to rejoin the rotation in time for next weekend’s series at the Stadium against the White Sox.
Other news from the IL
Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement) threw a 36-pitch bullpen session Saturday — “it went really well,” Boone said — and will face hitters in live batting practice on Monday.
Aaron Hicks (back) played catch on Friday and again Saturday. “We’ll slowly continue to progress him,” Boone said. “Starting to do some rotational stuff and we’ll introduce hitting here in the next few days.”
Luis Severino (right rotator cuff inflammation) threw long toss “over 120 feet and felt even better,” Boone said. He should throw a bullpen session soon.
Rotation for Astros
Boone said Masahiro Tanaka, Jonathan Loaisiga and James Paxton will be the starters for the three-game series in Houston that begins Monday.