The New York Yankees are getting healthy.
And that makes manager Aaron Boone happy.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius was activated off the 10-day disabled list Friday and played for the first time since suffering a left heel contusion in an Aug. 19 collision with Toronto first baseman Kendrys Morales.
Gregorius didn’t start but came on as a defensive substitute in the bottom of the sixth inning and likely will start in Saturday’s game against the host Seattle Mariners.
“We’ll ease Didi back in, not having played any rehab games,” Boone said. “The hope will be to get him in at some point (Friday). And if everything goes well, probably start him (Saturday) — not necessarily the whole game — and kind of build him back in that way. With September, we have the bodies that we can get other guys in there and not be up against it.”
Boone stressed the importance of having Gregorius back, both offensively and defensively.
“He’s a left-handed hitter and being able to hit him in different spots throughout the middle of the order, he balances us out,” Boone said. “He’s so steady for us at shortstop. The intangible things he does as far as leading our infield and always has his eye in the dugout, knows where to be. He’s kind of like a quarterback out there at shortstop.”
Just as importantly, outfielder Aaron Judge participated in on-field drills Friday for the first time since suffering a fractured right wrist July 26.
Judge hit balls off a tee before taking some underhand tosses from hitting coach Marcus Thomas.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for this whole time, for that pain to get out of there, for him to be able to really swing,” Boone said. “I think he’s starting to get at least a little bit excited about how he’s feeling when he’s swinging the bat. The ball is coming off real nice. Just positive steps for Aaron.”
That next step will be batting practice, then some simulated games. Judge has said he hopes to be playing in games within the next two weeks.
“Hopefully, now the progression is one that moves now, now that he’s to this point where he can do everything,” Boone said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting back up to baseball speed, building that stamina and then obviously graduating to live pitching, to seeing an actual pitcher.”
Yankees right-hander Lance Lynn (8-10, 5.10 ERA) is scheduled to start Saturday against Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez (8-13, 5.55). Lynn will be facing Seattle for the first time; Hernandez is 10-7 with a 3.00 ERA in 22 career starts against the Yankees. Hernandez won his only start against New York this season, giving up two runs (one earned) in five innings.
The Mariners, who are trying to stay in the American League’s wild-card race behind the Yankees and Oakland, also got some good news on the injury front Friday, as left-hander Marco Gonzales threw 35 pitches off the mound.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said Gonzales, who has been on the disabled list with a strained cervical muscle in his neck, will be activated in time to start Tuesday against San Diego.
Gonzales was 12-5 before going 0-4 with a 10.35 ERA in four August starts.
“I want to see the same guy we saw in June and July,” Servais said. “He was cruising. He does feel fine physically and is throwing all his pitches in the bullpen. He probably won’t go as long. First time out, you’re probably looking at 75 pitches or something like that. Again, we just want to see him healthy, executing pitches and feeling good about things.”
Meanwhile the Mariners will try to rebound from getting shut out and being held to three hits in its seventh loss in 11 games.