If there was any positive to come out of the coronavirus pandemic — and it’s trivial in the grand scheme of things — it’s that the extra time created by MLB’s postponement has allowed the New York Yankees to return to health.
General manager Brian Cashman disclosed that Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton, and Aaron Hicks are moving in the right direction toward being ready for MLB’s Opening Day on July 23 where the Yankees are expected to meet the defending world-champion Washington Nationals.
The positive health news will only further cement the organization’s standing as a legitimate World Series contender this season, even in the 60-game sprint.
Dealing with a stress fracture in his rib that was initially suffered last fall, Judge’s recovery progress has been promising to Cashman.
“We’re very optimistic right now that the proclamation he’ll be ready for Opening Day will ring true,” he said.
Judge’s health was a mistifying conundrum for the Yankees during spring training as pain plagued him throughout the warm-up phase. Upon its discovery, the slugger was expected to miss a good portion of the season considering the only thing that heals such an injury is time.
His slugging counterpart, Giancarlo Stanton, is also trending in the right direction as he comes back from a Grade 1 calf strain.
“I think he’ll be good to go,” Cashman said. “If you’re shooting for the DH role by opening day, that’s more of a possibility.”
If that’s the only avenue Stanton could take for an Opening Day return, that will create an issue for manager Aaron Boone to fit the rest of his promising bats in the lineup.
With Gio Urshela poised to be the every-day third baseman, Miguel Andujar was poised to get considerable time at the DH spot unless wins reps at first base from Luke Voit and Mike Ford.
Cashman all but gave the green light for starter James Paxton — who underwent back surgery earlier this year — to be ready for the start of the season.
“I think there is optimism if everything works out over the next two-three weeks… that he’ll have a shot to be plug and play, ready to go,” Cashman said. “It’s just evaluating how he looks over the next three weeks. We believe his injury issues are resolved.”
Paxton is expected to be the No. 2 arm behind Gerrit Cole this season while Luis Severino recovers from Tommy John surgery, and Domingo German serves an 81-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy.
Center fielder Aaron Hicks also looks ready to go, according to Cashman, after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
“We have to make sure their physical condition and how they respond to game reps are up to par,” Cashman said. “He’s checked all the boxes this far.”
Hicks played in only 55 games last season, a disappointing follow-up to a 27-home-run 2018 campaign.