Yankees third baseman DJ LeMahieu stands in the dugout before...

Yankees third baseman DJ LeMahieu stands in the dugout before the team's baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Anaheim, Calif.  Credit: AP/Ryan Sun

ANAHEIM, Calif. — After fouling a ball off his right foot during a spring training game against the Blue Jays on March 16, DJ LeMahieu expressed hope he would be sidelined “just a few days.”

It turned out to be far longer than that.

Once the significant swelling diminished in the foot, LeMahieu, originally diagnosed with a bone bruise, was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture, guaranteeing he would start the season on the injured list.

After a setback during his first rehab assignment — which lasted all of one inning on April 23 before the veteran pulled himself from a game with Double-A Somerset because of discomfort in the foot — LeMahieu on Tuesday night was ready at last for his 2024 debut.

LeMahieu was in the lineup against the Angels, batting ninth and starting at third.

“I wouldn’t change a whole lot with our offense right now,” LeMahieu, a two-time batting champion, said with a smile of hitting ninth, a batting order position he hasn’t occupied since doing so in his first two games as a Yankee in 2019.“I’m looking forward to it. I’m just looking forward to being a part of the lineup and lurk down there in the bottom of the order.”

Last week, manager Aaron Boone said, when LeMahieu returned, the Yankees — while being mindful of the injury he is coming back from — planned to have him get the “bulk” of playing time when it comes to being the everyday third baseman.

Indeed, the 35-year-old — who won three of his four career Gold Gloves at second, giving the Yankees a more than solid option there should they want to give Gleyber Torres occasional rest — did not lose his starting position as a result of injury.

And Boone said before Tuesday’s game his intent was to play LeMahieu at third all three games of this series.

But LeMahieu, as mentioned, did lose his intended spot in the batting order.

On the first day of spring training, Boone said the Yankees envisioned LeMahieu as their leadoff hitter.

But Anthony Volpe’s performance there in LeMahieu’s absence — the second-year shortstop brought a 19-game hitting streak into Tuesday and was hitting .282 with a .355 on-base percentage for the season — had the Yankees concluding, at least for now, something along these lines: it ain’t broke, so let’s not fix it (Volpe is also the team leader in stolen bases with 11).

LeMahieu was fine with this but, just to be sure, Boone pulled him aside at the team hotel on Monday.

“I talked to him a little bit about it yesterday,” Boone said. “I said, ‘I’m going to keep Anthony in the leadoff spot.’ Not surprisingly, DJ’s just like, ‘Wherever you want.’ He’s just so excited to be back and play with this group. It’s a testament to who he is. This is a guy, [who] already has had an amazing career [and] an amazing career with the Yankees, and the unselfishness to completely not make it about him, which wasn’t surprising, is just who he is and a great example to the rest of the club.”

And the fact is, LeMahieu is rejoining a team that hasn’t needed him.

Which is not a slight

The Yankees came into Tuesday with the best record in the American League (37-18) and the second-best mark in the majors (the Phillies were 38-17). Their offense — led by Juan Soto’s seasonlong excellence, Aaron Judge’s ridiculous month of May, Giancarlo Stanton’s resurgence, Volpe holding down the leadoff spot and under-the-radar contributions from Oswaldo Cabrera, Alex Verdugo and Jose Trevino — entered Tuesday ranked first in the majors in home runs (81), OBP (.335) and OPS (.773) and were fifth in runs (266).

“I would have rather been playing with them, but obviously it’s been a special start to the season,” LeMahieu said. “Just looking forward to being a part of it.”

Kind words for Angel

Boone, who has had plenty of run-ins with umpires as Yankees manager, did not pile on when it came to Angel Hernandez and Monday’s announcement that the longtime, controversial umpire was retiring effective immediately.

“I think he’s wrongly been the poster child, [been] a punching bag, for officiating, and I think sometimes that’s been unfair and over the top,” Boone said. “Reality is, he spent a lot of time in this league and cared about his craft, so I wish him well. He’s a great guy and I wish him well in his next chapter.”

Boone has been ejected 35 times as a manager — and five times as a player — none of those by Hernandez.

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