Yankees third baseman DJ LeMahieu walks on the field after...

Yankees third baseman DJ LeMahieu walks on the field after getting injured during the third inning of a spring training game against the Minnesota Twins on Feb. 26, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall

TAMPA, Fla. — The Yankees will be without third baseman DJ LeMahieu to start the season.

Just how long that stint on the injured list will be remains very much in question.

“The last few days, giving it time, it hasn’t really responded quick enough with the dates coming,” general manager Brian Cashman said at Steinbrenner Field late Monday morning, about an hour before the Yankees beat the Mets, 3-0, in both teams’ Grapefruit League finale.

The Yankees, who finished 14-16 in spring training, will open the regular season Thursday against the Astros in Houston, with that four-game series followed by three games against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

LeMahieu, who had been enjoying a solid spring training, suffered a bone bruise when he fouled a ball off his right foot on March 16 against the Blue Jays.

Speaking a day later, LeMahieu expressed hope that he would be ready for Opening Day. But after spending the latter part of last week going through some light baseball activities, which included a bit of cage work and one day of hitting on the field — which he cut short after a couple of rounds — LeMahieu was still feeling discomfort.

By rule, the Yankees can backdate LeMahieu’s IL stint three days, meaning he could be in play for the home opener April 5 against the Blue Jays.

Still, that would seem to be a long shot at the moment, based on how slowly the healing process has gone so far.

Initial testing on the foot came back negative. Cashman said LeMahieu will be sent for another MRI later this week, which was the plan from the start.

The injury lines up utilityman Oswaldo Cabrera to begin the season as the everyday third baseman, but the Yankees have been looking at external options in the utility infielder department for much of the last month. Those efforts are expected to intensify between now and Thursday’s opener.

Cabrera is all but assured of making the final 26-man roster regardless, but LeMahieu’s injury opens the door for infielders Jahmai Jones, a waiver claim pickup from the Brewers in late February who is on the 40-man roster, and Kevin Smith, a non-roster invitee who has had a decent spring training. Both can play third base but neither would be described as a preferred organizational security blanket.

With LeMahieu also the de facto backup first baseman, not a position of depth or strength in the organization, that role at the moment shifts to Cabrera, who has limited experience there. So finding someone with first-base experience is a point of discussion as well.

“We have our internal candidates that we have a feel for who they are,” Cashman said. “But externally we’re evaluating all the options. There’s always a potential trade or designations [players designated for assignments from other camps], opt-outs [in contracts for those who don’t make Opening Day rosters], that type of stuff. So we’re evaluating the field there to make sure.

“So we’ll probably go into Houston . . . we’ll have conversations with some guys, saying, ‘You’ve beaten people out internally, you’ll be joining us in Houston, but no guarantee you’re officially on the team until we exhaust making sure there isn’t better options outside.’ ”  

Extra bases

Clarke Schmidt, who threw a career-high 159 innings last season in his first full year as a starter, concluded an overall good Grapefruit League season Monday, allowing one hit and two walks in five scoreless innings in which he struck out six. Schmidt, who posted a 3.18 ERA in five outings and will make his season debut Sunday in Houston, wanted to improve his command in spring training, which he believed he was able to take “a level up.” The righthander also worked on his changeup and said, “We’re in a really good spot with that.” . . .

Closer Clay Holmes threw a scoreless inning to give him a 1.59 ERA in seven appearances. Holmes struck out seven, walked one and hit a batter in 5 2⁄3 innings . . . Before the game, Spencer Jones, 22, received the James P. Dawson Award after slashing .444/.565/.722 (8-for-18) in 12 exhibition games. The award goes to the most outstanding Yankees rookie in spring training. Anthony Volpe won it last year.

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