Harrison Bader admitted it’s been a little strange joining a team as a trade deadline acquisition without the ability to perform immediately. Although he is making progress since being placed on the injured list June 27 as a member of the Cardinals with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, the new Yankees outfielder is looking forward to the day he can throw on the pinstripes.
“It’s very difficult, it’s definitely been a challenge,” Bader said. “Walking in here in a boot, I’m sure everybody was like, ‘We just traded for this guy in a boot, are we serious?’ But there’s always a greater perspective and a bigger perspective involved and I think that I’m definitely here for a reason so I’m just focusing on getting healthy so I can be effective for this team.”
The Yankees acquired Bader from the Cardinals for lefthanded starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery Aug 2. Bader, who is known as a speedy and strong defensive centerfielder, said his rehab is going well but still wouldn’t put an exact date on his Yankees debut.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I definitely think I’ll be here the first week or so in September but again, I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”
He added he has “no doubt” he’ll be able to return this season.
The 28-year-old centerfielder continued to cite a progression and a plan the Yankees have for him. But he chose to be coy about those details. He is still wearing a boot and hasn’t tried putting on a cleat yet. He is currently advancing to pool work and said he doesn’t feel pain in his foot.
Bader, who won a Gold Glove last season, remains confident he’ll be able to be that same type of dynamic centerfielder when he returns from the injury. He said he felt some discomfort in his cleats dating to spring training and has since educated himself on plantar fasciitis and feet in general, hoping this won’t be a continuous issue throughout his career.
Bader had a slash line of .256/.303/.370 with five home runs, 21 RBIs, 35 runs scored and 15 stolen bases on 17 attempts over 72 games for the Cardinals before his injury. Bader, a six-year veteran, had 16 home runs and 50 RBIs in 103 games last season.
As for what he could bring to a Yankees team that was on a historic pace the opening 70 games before faltering since the All-Star break, Bader doesn’t want to discuss that until he can back up his words on the field.
“I don’t even want to really talk about it because I haven’t even gotten the chance to prove it and saying all these things without having the ability to be able to prove it for a number of weeks, there’s no point,” Bader said. “I know what I can add to it when I’m healthy and just going out there and just doing it without having to talk about it before is really what I’m focusing on.”
Bader is expected to improve the Yankees’ team speed and outfield defense – hopefully spelling Aaron Judge from having to play centerfield as often. But Bader doesn’t want to rush his recovery and neither do the Yankees. All parties want him to be 100% in late September and throughout a postseason run.
“[I want to] be ready for where the team is at and where I can be in that puzzle,” Bader said. “My advancing too quickly would not really be effective for that team.”