DJ LeMahieu knows his experience with COVID-19 could have been far worse.
He felt little to no symptoms before being tested, was “shocked” when he was told he had tested positive and felt little to no symptoms after doing so.
Still, recovering from the virus took enough out of the second baseman to make him questionable for the Yankees' season opener against the Nationals on Thursday in Washington.
“I think it’s a possibility. I don't know if it's realistic or not,” LeMahieu said Saturday afternoon via Zoom a few hours before the Yankees played the Mets at Citi Field in both teams’ exhibition openers. “I think that's going to be up to the trainers and to Boonie [manager Aaron Boone]. But I think I'm going be pretty close. If it's not Opening Day, it'll definitely be [within] the first few games. But we’ll see. We’ll see how these few days go.”
“Nothing would surprise me,” Boone said with a small laugh of the possibility that LeMahieu will be ready for the opener. “And nothing surprises me anymore in 2020, that’s for sure. But look, I don’t worry about DJ as far as being up to speed and being able to get in and be competitive right away. My biggest thing is making sure he’s in a safe position to do it. So really getting a good read and evaluation about where he is, from his legs and how his stamina is, how his endurance is. Trying to get a good evaluation based on conversations we have with him, but also the strength and conditioning and training staffs' evaluations too.”
LeMahieu was one of two Yankees to test positive for the virus before undergoing the intake testing that would have allowed him to start Spring Training II at the Stadium on July 4. Reliever Luis Cessa also tested positive before camp and is expected to rejoin the team soon. Closer Aroldis Chapman tested positive a few days into camp, and his status is not at all clear.
LeMahieu was cleared by mid-week. He arrived in New York on Thursday night and went through limited workouts at the Stadium on Friday and Saturday.
LeMahieu said getting tested was his idea. While he was home in Michigan, he wanted to see his father. After learning he recently had been in contact with someone who had tested positive, LeMahieu, despite not feeling any of the symptoms associated with the virus, got tested just to be sure.
It came back positive. “Really shocked,” LeMahieu said.
Though he was not affected by the virus the way so many others have been, he said, “It's definitely a scary thing when you have something that there's no cure for.”
LeMahieu, 31, is entering a critical season. He is in the final year of the two-year, $24 million deal he signed before the 2019 season. There is mutual interest in extending his time in the Bronx, and for good reason.
He is coming off a season in which he contended for American League MVP honors and unquestionably was the team MVP. LeMahieu, named an All-Star for the third time in his nine-year career, hit .327 with an .893 OPS, a career-high 26 homers (his previous high was 15) and 102 RBIs (his previous high was 66). He was among the most durable Yankees, playing in 145 games in a year in which his club sent a record 30 players to the injured list.
Though uber-quiet, LeMahieu is universally respected in the clubhouse, a classic case of leader-by-example.
While he would like to be ready by Thursday, he knows there’s no reason to force things.
“I want to do as much as I can without overdoing it,” LeMahieu said. “So for me, it’s just getting to the field early, check in with our trainers and just keep pushing the envelope a little bit and get ready as quick as I can.”