Brett Gardner spent several years fending off questions about trade rumors. Now, the conversation changes.
Will Gardner, who turns 35 Aug. 24, fit into the Yankees plans beyond this year? The club holds a $12-million option for 2019.
“That’s a long ways away. I try to worry about today and this season,’’ Gardner said Thursday. “I’ve always said for me it’s best to stay healthy, try to get over this knee thing and get back to playing every day and that will take care of itself.’’
Gardner has not played since last Saturday when the leftfielder was diagnosed with inflammation in his right knee.
Aaron Boone expects Gardner to return against the Rays in Tampa when the Yankees begin a three-game series Friday night. The manager did hedge slightly because of the artificial surface in Tampa.
The usual starting outfield has Gardner in left, Aaron HIcks in center and Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge in right. It is the presence of Clint Frazier, who made his first big-league start in center and had two hits in the 4-3 victory over the Mariners, that may have the most immediate impact on Gardner.
The options with Frazier? Trade him by July in a deal for a starting pitcher or open an outfield spot in 2019. That presumably would be in left. A young, inexpensive player vs. a somewhat hefty salary for an aging Gardner, who is in his 11th season with the Yankees. Frazier said he wants to stay with the Yankees “even if it means going up and down,’’ to Triple-A.
Gardner said, “I love it here. I’ve never been shy about saying that. Hopefully, I’ll play for a few more years and hopefully that’ll be here.’’
Cole to the disabled list
Reliever A.J. Cole, who pitched two perfect innings against the Mariners on Tuesday, was placed on the disabled list with a left neck strain. Boone said Cole was playing catch Wednesday and pinched a nerve. Cole was replaced by righthander Luis Cessa, who had been sidelined with an oblique strain . . . Boone said Masahiro Tanaka (hamstrings) threw off flat ground and will accompany the team to Tampa, where he is expected to throw a bullpen Sunday.