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When Aaron Judge returns, who will sit down?

Outfielders Aaron Hicks, Andrew McCutchen and Brett Gardner

Outfielders Aaron Hicks, Andrew McCutchen and Brett Gardner celebrate after a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 7, 2018. Credit: Getty Images/Stephen Brashear

If three’s company and four’s a crowd, five is a veritable mathematical problem.

That’s the issue Aaron Boone will face when Aaron Judge is fully cleared to hit in a live game and returns to the outfield on a full-time basis. There is, of course, Judge in rightfield and Aaron Hicks in centerfield. Andrew McCutchen, who started in right on Saturday, could play left, and Boone said he’s athletic enough to do it. But Brett Gardner plays left, too. Giancarlo Stanton usually is a DH, but he also has started in leftfield and rightfield.

“Tough decisions are part of it,” Boone said. “We’re not at that point yet, but hopefully we’re in a position because of health, that we’re healthy, that we are going to have to make a difficult decision. I’m not sure what that is right now. We’ll see how the final couple weeks here unfold.”

Maybe, but the decision might have to come fairly soon. Judge (chip fracture in right wrist), who was activated Friday and played the outfield for two innings but still hasn't been cleared to  hit, took batting practice for the second day in a row Saturday and is getting closer to a full return.

One clear possibility is sitting Gardner, who is hitting a career-low .238, but that would strip the lineup of one of its lefthanded hitters, a solid defensive player and one of its fastest baserunners. It also would mean moving McCutchen to a position he has played only once in his career, earlier this year.

“We’re trying to rep [McCutchen] as much as we can and practice and I think he’s the kind of athlete that will allow him to do it,” Boone said, adding that he has a protection against being too righthanded. Essentially, he can play matchups with his bench.

He added, “That all goes into the thinking as well on a given day or a given team or pitchers that we’re facing.”

He also reiterated that this actually is a best-case scenario, especially with the 3D chess matches produced by a successful playoff run.

“Potentially in a playoff scenario where the lineup could look a little different each game depending on matchups, depending on how guys are playing, how guys are performing,” he said. “All that matters.”

Chapman return close 

Aroldis Chapman (knee tendinitis) had a successful second bullpen session and  likely will throw in a simulated game either Monday or Tuesday, Boone said. If all goes well, his return will be imminent.

Report: Sheffield called up

The Yankees have called up top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, according to Conor Foley, the team's beat writer for the Times-Tribune in Scranton. Boone would not confirm the move Saturday night. Sheffield, a starter, has been working out of the bullpen in the minors because that’s where the Yankees are most likely to use him down the stretch. He is 6-4  with a 2.56 ERA in Triple-A this season. The Yankees also called up righthander Domingo German, Foley said. 

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