NEW YORK (AP) — The banged-up New York Yankees are finally starting to get some of their bats back.
Third baseman Miguel Andujar is set to come off the injured list Saturday, and the team hopes infielder DJ LeMahieu will return to the lineup that day as well. Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier is scheduled to follow on Monday, when center fielder Aaron Hicks could begin a minor league rehab assignment.
With 13 players still on the IL, manager Aaron Boone gave a long rundown of medical status reports Friday before New York opened its homestand with a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
“Slowly but surely, we feel like we’re making some progress,” Boone said.
Maybe he spoke a little too soon.
Hours later, James Paxton exited his start after three innings because of soreness in his left knee. The team said Paxton will undergo an MRI on Saturday.
The oft-injured lefty, acquired from Seattle in an offseason trade, threw only half his 64 pitches for strikes on a nippy, 51-degree night.
“It’s just something that’s nagging at me enough that I couldn’t execute pitches,” Paxton said. “I’m not real worried it’s going to be something long-term.”
The most encouraging news involved Andujar, sidelined since April 1 with a small labrum tear in his right shoulder. Initially, the fear was he might need surgery that would jeopardize the remainder of his season, but Andujar responded well to a rehab program and rejoined the Yankees on Friday.
“That’s our expectation, that he will be back permanently. He’s passed some significant tests as far as the shoulder and how he’s doing, and I feel good about that he’s ready to handle this and excited obviously to get him back in the mix,” Boone said. “Especially with so many guys out right now, to get a guy that swings the bat the way Miguel does back in the flow, I think it will obviously add some length to our lineup.”
Andujar batted .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs last season, when he was runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year. He also had 47 doubles and an .855 OPS.
He was injured diving back into third base on a pickoff attempt by Baltimore catcher Pedro Severino during New York’s third game this season. Andujar played three rehab games with Class A Tampa, finishing 3 for 10 after going hitless in his first seven at-bats. He played four errorless innings on defense Thursday night and went 2 for 2 with a two-run homer.
Speaking through a translator in the Yankees’ clubhouse, Andujar said Friday he was feeling “much better” and has been able to throw the ball normally from third base.
Still, the Yankees will likely use Andujar as their designated hitter quite often — especially at first. Gio Urshela, a smooth fielder, has filled in nicely at third and was batting .339 with a homer and six RBIs.
“We’ll do a little bit of both. With our roster, the way it’s set up right now, Gio will play a lot at third. So we can DH Miggy a fair amount right now,” Boone said. “We’ll just kind of mix and match based on the day, but I feel comfortable that’s he ready to go from a defensive standpoint.”
Boone said the Yankees are not particularly concerned about Andujar getting hurt again.
“I don’t think he’d be going out there if we felt like this was something that, through throwing and whatever, that he would hurt himself more,” the manager explained. “You always run that risk to some degree, but we wouldn’t put him out there if we didn’t feel like he was capable of protecting himself and being a strong player.”
And the team certainly hopes Andujar’s recovery means he will avoid surgery.
“I think it’s probably an ongoing evaluation. I think the fact that we’re here suggests that we remain optimistic that it’s not going to be something that he’s going to have to take care of,” Boone said. “He wouldn’t have been able to do the things that he’s been able to do to this point if it was something that we determined was going be a surgical thing.”
LeMahieu missed a two-game series in Arizona this week because of right knee inflammation. He fouled a pitch off his knee Friday at San Francisco, then exited Sunday’s game against the Giants in the third inning.
But he ran the bases Friday and did some pregame defensive work, according to Boone, who thought LeMahieu could be an option off the bench to pinch-hit “with the hope that he’s back in there tomorrow.”
“But we’ll just have to see,” Boone said. “Today was considerably better than the off day yesterday.”
Frazier (sprained left ankle) took batting practice with the team and was headed to Pennsylvania for a two-game rehab stint with Double-A Trenton.
Hicks (lower back strain) will get more at-bats in extended spring training this weekend before beginning a rehab assignment with Class A Tampa.
“He’s doing really well bouncing back. He’s conceivably a week to 10 days out now,” Boone said.
In other injury updates:
— Aaron Judge (left oblique strain) is not ready to begin baseball activities yet.
— Troy Tulowitzki aggravated his left calf strain Wednesday night in his second rehab game with Tampa and will probably be shut down for a week.
— Didi Gregorius (Tommy John surgery) is doing really well, according to Boone, and potentially a couple of weeks from starting a rehab assignment.
— Giancarlo Stanton (strained left biceps) rejoined the team and will do light tee and soft-toss work over the next two days before ramping back up Monday.