KANSAS CITY — Didi Gregorius is expected back in the Yankees’ lineup before June 13. The shortstop, who is rehabbing from October Tommy John surgery, will begin his official minor-league rehab on Saturday. While he officially has 20 days to complete the assignment, Aaron Boone said it was likely it would be shorter.
That is the only injury news that has made the Yankee manager smile this season.
“Obviously, the kind of player he is, what he means to our team — between the lines and in the clubhouse, knowing all that he’s gone through, but since the surgery it’s kind of gone how we’ve hoped every step of the way,” Boone said Friday afternoon before the Yankees’ series opener against the Royals was rained out. This is another indication of this, another big step in working his way back. It looks like it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”
Gregorius played in four extended spring training games this week — missing one because of dehydration — before getting cleared to begin his rehab assignment.
“My timing is not there yet,” Gregorius told the Associated Press Friday. “But defensively I’m good. Arm and everything feels good.”
Gregorius has been pushing his rehab since the offseason. He met with Boone last weekend when the team was in Tampa and was lobbying to quicken the rehab program.
“Didi thought he could be ready for Opening Day. It doesn’t surprise me. Didi is just a ballplayer, man. He’s tough. He likes to play. He likes all that goes with it,” Boone said. “I haven’t been surprised at all. Even when I talked with him in the winter, it was like, ‘I’ll be ready to go. I’m ready now.’ It’s good to see that it has gone as well as it has, but now that he’s getting closer to an actual return, it’s really exciting.”
The Yankees, who have a major league-leading 14 players on the injured list, have not had much good injury news. Giancarlo Stanton’s minor league rehab from a shoulder strain was shut down this week when he suffered a calf strain. Miguel Andujar’s attempt to come back from a torn labrum without surgery was shut down and he is now out for the rest of the season. While the Yankees have found a surprisingly resilient group of replacements to fill in, they could use the veteran bat of Gregorius back in the lineup.
Last season, Gregorius hit .268/.335/.494 with 27 homers and 86 RBI.
“First and foremost, guys have stepped up. Gleyber Torres has gone over and played a really good shortstop for us. Didi is such a reliable player; he’s so rock-steady on defense. As a left-handed hitter in our lineup — for the most part this year has been a little right-handed heavy — he gives us a little bit of balance,” Boone said. “To have a premium middle-of-the-diamond defender that can also swing the bat like he does from the left side, and be this steady, reliable player, even though things have gone well, you miss them.”
Boone was not giving a timeline for Gregorius’ return, but was pretty confident it would be sooner than 20 days.
“I think the plan is at least two or three down in Tampa and then we might transfer him to Scranton or something,” Boone said. “The good thing is, as he’s worked his way back, he’s been able to rack up a lot of at-bats between live at-bats, sim games, extended spring games. He’s gotten quite a number of at-bats. Now it’s about getting the bounce-back, building him up to be able to play nine innings and bounce back and those kind of things.”
In other news out of Tampa, Troy Tulowitzki has been taking grounders at shortstop, third and second base and anticipates playing in a minor league rehab game next week.
With Gregorius likely to be activated before Tulowitzki — who was signed to be a fill-in for him as he rehabbed from Tommy John — the Yankees would have to use Tulowitzki as a utility infielder.
The series-opener at Kauffman Stadium against the Royals was rained out Friday, meaning a split-doubleheader on Saturday.
J.A. Happ will start the 2:15 game for the Yankees, but they did not name a starter for the nightcap. Domingo German will go on his scheduled day on Sunday.
Chance Adams was pulled from his start with Triple-A Scranton, so there is a chance the Yankees could start him. They were prepared to start Chad Green as an “opener” on Friday night and could still go that route, with Adams as insurance for the bullpen.