DETROIT — Giancarlo Stanton could rewrite the narrative on his start with the Yankees. Despite hitting 38 homers, driving in 100 RBIs and playing in 152 games last season, Stanton’s first season in pinstripes was more likely remembered for him coming up short in October.
But now, with the injury that will keep Mike Tauchman out for the rest of the season, the Yankees need Stanton more than ever. He has a chance to return from a regular season lost to a long list of ailments and establish himself in Yankee lore with a solid October.
The Yankees seem to be optimistic that he can do that.
In his first playoff experience, Stanton went 4-for-18 with six strikeouts in the Yankees’ American League Division Series loss to the Red Sox last year.
Stanton continued to ramp up his baseball activities down at the team’s minor league facility in Tampa and is expected back as soon as next week.
“I actually texted with him last night, he’s doing well,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before Tuesday night’s series opener against the Tigers at Comerica Park. “He’s getting a lot of at-bats, running the bases, doing all his defensive work. So, he’s definitely moving in the right direction in his mind, getting really close.”
Stanton has played just nine games this season because of injuries. He went on the injured list initially on April 1 with a left biceps strain. Then he had a shoulder strain and suffered a strained left calf during his rehab from that. He returned to play three games before he suffered a sprained right knee on June 25.
Stanton has started running the bases and Boone said he will even slide at some point before coming back.
“It’s been going well. 100%? I don’t know if he is all the way 100%, but yeah, he’s passed a lot of the protocols and almost to that point of back to playing,” Boone said. “He has now been responding really well to his running and agility work really over the last few weeks.”
It is unlikely Stanton will have time to get his timing back in a minor league rehab game, since the Yankees only have Double-A Trenton still playing. Boone said that Stanton could get some game reps in instruction league games.
“It’s possible. We haven’t talked about that for sure yet. It’s possible he could. He’s able to get so many at-bats, live at-bats and see a ton of pitches from the pitchers down there,” Boone said of the Tampa complex where the Yankees have pitchers throwing in case they need them next month. “As long as he is doing that and graduating his base running and eventually sliding and getting all his defensive work, I think he’s getting what he needs from a live at-bats standpoint.”
In 38 plate appearances this year, Stanton has nine hits, including a double and a home run, seven RBI and 13 strikeouts. Stanton has eight years remaining on the 13-year $325 million deal he signed with the Marlins.
Aaron Hicks was in California Monday seeing a specialist for a second opinion on his strained flexor in his right elbow, but Boone said they still did not have news.
“We’re still waiting on all the doctors and all the information to get squared up and see where we go from there,” Boone said. “I don’t have news there.”
Time is obviously running short for the centerfielder to return. Hicks had begun a throwing program last Monday after being cleared by team doctors, but was shut down on Friday and sent to be re-examined because he didn’t feel “quite right” when throwing. Hicks has not thrown or hit since suffering the injury Aug. 3. The Yankees have just 16 games remaining after Tuesday night’s game.
The Yankees will use Domingo German out of the bullpen — kind of — on Wednesday. The 17-game winner will piggyback with CC Sabathia, who is making his first start after coming off the injured list. Boone said he is not yet sure how he will use German in the postseason.
“I view Domingo playing a really big role for us in the postseason, hopefully. I could see it being a lot of different ways,” Boone said. “I could see him absolutely starting and being that guy for us. I could see him coming into a game in a key spot and picking up innings, both short and length. Nothing has been defined yet there. It's something that will probably remain fluid until we're finished playing.”
Cameron Maybin, who was in the starting lineup Monday for the first time in over a week because of a wrist issue, was not in the lineup Tuesday. There was no setback, Boone said; he’s just planning to limit his playing time as he eases back in.
“Knowing tomorrow with a lefty, he’ll probably play center in place of (Brett Gardner),” Boone said. “I didn’t want to go three in a row right out of the chute with him. That was the thought behind him being down today.”
The Yankees reinstated Ben Heller from the 60-day injured list and put Mike Tauchman on the 10-day IL before Tuesday’s game. To make room on the 40-man, they designated right-handed pitcher Adonis Rosa.