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Didi Gregorius' injury a tough one to overcome, but Yankees' schedule will help

Yankees trainer Steve Donohue checks on shortstop Didi

Yankees trainer Steve Donohue checks on shortstop Didi Gregorius after his collision with Blue Jays first baseman Kendrys Morales during the first inning at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018. Gregorius returned to action Friday night. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

With Didi Gregorius almost certainly headed to the disabled list because of the left heel bruise he suffered Sunday in the Yankees’ 10-2 rout of the Blue Jays, the body count is getting uncomfortably high in the Bronx.

The disheartening roll call already included two of the team’s top five sluggers in Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. The addition of Gregorius wipes out both the starting shortstop and the team’s No. 3 hitter in one crippling blow.

That’s a big chunk of offensive production, not to mention the destabilizing effect of losing a premium defender. Eventually, those cracks begin to show. Maybe not right away, but the impact usually is felt over time.

Aaron Boone said the immediate plan to replace Gregorius involves sliding Gleyber Torres over to shortstop — his original position — and using either Neil Walker or Ronald Torreyes at second.

For the next two games in Miami, where they won’t have the luxury of the DH, at least Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring) said he’s OK to return to the outfield and intends to play both nights for his homecoming trip against the Marlins. But the Yankees will have their fingers crossed watching him run around on that artificial turf because their luck with injuries recently has been all bad.

“We’ve been dealing with it and I think we’ve been doing a great job,” said Greg Bird, who did his part Sunday with a first-inning grand slam, his second homer in as many at-bats. “Guys have stepped up. We’ve just got to keep doing that.”

Seeing Gregorius collide with Jays first baseman Kendrys Morales as he hustled for an infield single in the first inning was the latest in a series of freakish mishaps. A day earlier, Austin Romine took a 98-mph foul tip to the face, knocking him from that game as well as from Sunday’s lineup, but he’s expected to be fine for Miami.

Gregorius awkwardly barreled into and flipped over the bigger Morales, then remained on the ground for a while as he was checked out by trainer Steve Donohue. Somehow, Gregorius stayed in the game for another half-inning before Torreyes appeared in the on-deck circle to hit for him in the second.

“He’s got a pretty significant bruise,” Boone said after the game.

All things considered, maybe the Yankees were fortunate that it wasn’t something more severe, like the wrist fracture that now seems to be threatening the remainder of the season for Judge. In hindsight, the team’s initial projection of a three-week return looks ridiculous. He’s now going on four weeks, and Judge admitted that the wrist still hurts because he’s in the middle of a typical healing process for a broken bone.

As for what’s determining the timetable for him picking up a bat, Judge replied, “Pain. That’s all it is.”

Doesn’t sound very promising. And even if he were able to start swinging tomorrow, the rehab process is going to move glacially slow because of the complicated nature of a wrist injury. The best-case scenario probably puts him at least another two weeks away from possibly returning to active duty — and who knows what kind of shape he’ll be in then?

It’s a bleak outlook. But if you need some good news, take a glance at the Yankees’ schedule, which has been their friend during these medically challenged times. They’re halfway through a 27-game stretch that has included only three against a team even remotely near a .500 record, and that would be the 63-61 Rays, who won two of the three in the Bronx last week.

The other seven weaklings during this pushover period average out to a comical 29 games below .500, thanks in part to the Orioles (50 under) and White Sox (32 under). Maybe the Yankees are banged up, but this is a group consisting mostly of teams that will be mailing it in for the next five weeks or so — until Boone & Co. get to Oakland on Sept. 3.

As long as Stanton’s hamstring remains intact, the Yankees should have enough to get them through Didi’s injury. Sanchez is expected back by the end of this month, and Bird and Torres appear to be waking up, which could provide a timely boost.

The Yankees scored 28 runs in their three-game sweep of the pitiful Blue Jays, with the upcoming string of opponents little more than bowling pins.

The Yankees, figuratively speaking, just have to make sure not to drop the ball on their foot.

New York Sports