The news had hit the Yankees in quick succession, like a jab and a right cross. Instead of getting doubled over, though, they took the field as one of the best teams in the American League on Friday night — and also got Didi Gregorius back.
After getting off to a 13-7 start despite not having Gregorius at all and having Gary Sanchez for only five games, the Yankees activated the shortstop from the disabled list Friday, and Joe Girardi said he made it down to the Stadium early to greet Gregorius.
“I’ve looked forward to the day that Didi was to come back,” Girardi said. “I saw him here and it was great to see him. Good to have him healthy, good to have him back at shortstop . . . We haven’t forgotten the year Didi had last year.”
Gregorius, who hit .276 with 20 home runs and 70 RBIs in 2016 and missed the first 20 games of this season with a right shoulder strain suffered during the World Baseball Classic, batted sixth, with Aaron Judge dropping to seventh. Gregorius made a diving stop on a ball hit by Welington Castillo for the second out of the second inning and followed that up with a double to centerfield in the bottom of the frame. He added an RBI grounder in the sixth.
Gregorius played five games for Class A Tampa in his rehab stint, going 8-for-18 with four multi-hit games. “I’m ready to go,” he said, adding that he wasn’t surprised that the team has thrived in his absence. “I’ve got to keep the pace up with them and start the season on a good note . . . These guys are good. Everybody saw what we did last year in the second half, so the thing is we kept the momentum going. That’s what we wanted. We want to keep going.”
Despite the return of Gregorius, Torreyes — who brought a .308 average into Friday night — still will get plenty of chances, Girardi said. The utilityman hit safely in 10 of his previous 11 games.
“I’m just going to move him around and make sure these guys stay strong and fresh,” Girardi said. “You look at the job that Ronald Torreyes did, we wouldn’t be here in this spot if he hadn’t done what he’s done until this point . . . His at-bats are just going to come from different positions.”
To make room for Gregorius, the Yankees designated infielder Pete Kozma for assignment.