The Yankees were able to be patient with DJ LeMahieu’s shaky season as Aaron Judge carried their offense. Now that Judge will be out for the foreseeable future, LeMahieu’s lack of production has become a full-blown concern.
“We want to get DJ going,” Aaron Boone said Friday before the opener of a three-game series against Boston. “The last couple of weeks have been a grind for him.”
The most glaring sign of LeMahieu’s struggles have been his uncharacteristic strikeout numbers. He’s already whiffed 60 times this season in only 221 plate appearances. Last year he struck out 71 times in 541. When he won the batting title in 2020, he had only 21 in 216. Entering Friday's game, he had struck out seven times in the last four games.
“I think he has expanded a little bit when he’s been behind in the count with two strikes, chased a little bit more than we’re accustomed to seeing,” Boone said. “This year he’s gotten some pitches within an at-bat that normal DJ puts in play and is on base and the at-bat is over. Some of those balls have felt more like foul balls this year.”
Boone also said he thinks LeMahieu has “expanded” his strike zone.
LeMahieu showed some signs of busting his slump Friday with two hits in the first three innings.
“He’s a great hitter and you trust that water will find its level,“ Boone said. “Hopefully it’s something that returns a little bit more to what we’re accustomed to with DJ. I know he’s grinding through it and I believe the hit tool he has will reveal itself.”
Notes & quotes: Judge’s injury impacts just about everything the Yankees do, but it won’t influence the timeline for moving Giancarlo Stanton into the suddenly thin outfield. “It will not accelerate it,” Boone said of keeping Stanton at DH. “G is going to work his way out there through pregame [workouts] and build on his timing. We’ll keep true to that . . . He’s good at letting us know when he feels like that’s in play. I certainly want it in play, but I also don’t want to rush it.” . . . Boone said he doesn’t know if Harrison Bader, on the injured list with a hamstring issue since May 29, will need a rehab assignment before rejoining the Yankees. Bader, eligible to return for the opener of the Red Sox series, took batting practice and went through some outfield drills Friday. “He’s been doing a lot better the last four or five days now and he’s eyeing that,” Boone said of his return . . . Boone said outfielder Greg Allen (hip flexor strain) will be on the IL “a while” and offered a timeline of six to eight weeks.