Didi Gregorius told reporters at Tropicana Field Monday that he will be back in the Yankees lineup before the end of the season. Gregorius based that projection on how much pain he felt in his right wrist, which was diagnosed with a small cartilage tear on Sunday, before Monday night’s game against the Rays.
The Yankees shortstop’s projection, however, may depend on how long the Bombers are able to extend their season. While Gregorius could possibly play through this injury, depending on pain management and strength issues, Dr. Armin Tehrany, Founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care, said that cartilage tears generally take two to four weeks to heal in “a best case scenario.”
Tehrany, who has not examined Gregorius, spoke in general from his experience with torn cartilage. He said that the treatment during that time span is just rest, physical therapy and “possibly a brace.” Gregorius was seen by reporters at Tropicana Field wearing a large wrap on his right hand Monday.
The doctor also noted that Gregorius received a cortisone shot for pain relief, but added “if these measures fail, he may need surgery.”
Gregorius, who injured the wrist on a headfirst slide into home on Saturday, said he had some range of motion and he was dealing with soreness. Team doctors have not mentioned the possibility of surgery to him. Even without the possibility of surgery, an injury to Gregorius that causes him to miss two weeks would be a “worst-case scenario” for the Yankees.
The Bombers have clinched a playoff spot in the American League wild card game but are in a dogfight to hold onto home-field advantage. They hold a 1.5-game lead over the A’s to host the one-game playoff — and avoid a cross-country journey before a possible division series, which would begin in Boston.
Officially, the Yankees would not put a timeline on Gregorius’ expected return. They announced on Sunday, after a devastating loss to the Orioles, that Gregorius had the cortisone shot and will be re-evaluated in “a few days.”
Gregorius’ injury is not just a simple setback for the Yankees; this is a huge blow to their lineup and team.
Aaron Boone has called him the “quarterback” of the infield and also the “heartbeat” of the team. He’s a leader in the clubhouse and the steady veteran in between two rookies on the infield.
How Gregorius’ wrist heals will be a big part of how far the Yankees go this postseason.
The 28-year-old shortstop is hitting .268 with a career-high 27 homers, 86 RBI and 10 stolen bases this season. That’s a pretty big bat out of the lineup, particularly with Aaron Judge still trying to find his stride after missing seven weeks with a fractured right wrist.
Defensively, Gregorius is the top-rated shortstop in fielding percentage in the majors, with just five errors on 470 total chances in the field.
The Yankees have had some experience with this specific problem.
Gregorius missed 16 games with a bruised right heel from August to mid-September. They have options while Gregorius’ wrist is healing, but none are perfect fits for the significant void he leaves.
Gleyber Torres can slide over to shortstop and the Yankees can put Neil Walker in at second base. That gives the right-handed heavy Yankee lineup a solid lefty bat in Walker, who is a switch-hitter, but it also makes the left side of the infield unstable. Torres has five errors in just 66 chances at shortstop this season. Next to Miguel Andujar, who has the second lowest fielding percentage at third base in the majors and the third most errors, that can be a real defensive issue.
The Yankees used Torres at shortstop when Gregorius was on the disabled list with the heel issue.
As Boone did on Monday night, the Yankees can put Adeiny Hechavarria in at shortstop to tighten up the defense. Hechavarria’s defensive runs saved of three are certainly a comfort to the Yankees’ pitchers — particularly between two young, mistake-prone rookies — but his bat has little to contribute. Hechavarria is hitting .255 with 27 RBI and four home runs in limited appearances this season.