Posted on June 7, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

New York Yankees Didi Gregorius
Image via cbssports.com

In a season that’s been plagued and largely defined by injuries, the New York Yankees are getting one of their key players back. Not only that, but he’s returning sooner than expected. Shortstop Didi Gregorius will be activated on Friday and make his season debut when the Yankees begin a series with the Cleveland Indians. He’s missed the early part of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last fall but could be an important factor for the Yankees moving forward.

Gregorius played through a wrist injury late last season and then hurt his elbow in Game 2 of the ALDS. He managed to push through that injury until the Yankees were eliminated from the postseason. But he underwent Tommy John surgery soon after New York’s season ended. The Yankees were initially hopeful that he’d be back at some point this summer, most likely for the second half of the season. However, less than eight months removed from the surgery, Gregorius is ready to go.

“He’s just low maintenance, blue collar, likes to play,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Gregorius Thursday. “He isn’t consumed with himself at all. He’s just like, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to play.’ And he’s been saying that since Spring Training. Now that it’s reality, that he’s here, I know how hard he’s worked. It’s exciting for him and all his teammates.”

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After completing his rehab, Gregorius has played in eight minor league games to get his timing back. He was just 3 for 25 (.120) during a six-game stint at triple-A. But that appears to be enough. Gregorius has become increasingly important to the Yankees during his four seasons in the Bronx. Last year, he hit a career-high 27 home runs and posted a career-high .829 OPS. Obviously, the Yankees are hoping he can pick up where he left off in 2018.

“I don’t think I have to tell you guys what a good player he is,” said Boone. “I think you guys have seen over the last few years what he’s meant to our club in so many ways. To get a player like him back is exciting.”

Of course, Gregorius returning will mean changes for the Yankees on the infield. Gleyber Torres can expect to see more time at second base after being the team’s primary shortstop during the last two months. That will then free up DJ LeMahieu to spend more time at third base, where the Yankees are missing Miguel Andujar for the rest of the season.

To be fair, Gio Urshela has been better than expected while filling in for Andujar at third base. If he continues to produce, LeMahieu may end up serving as a roving backup at all four infield positions, which was the team’s intention when they signed him. The Yankees are also awaiting the return of Troy Tulowitzki, who has been out since April with a calf injury.

Ultimately, playing time for those infielders should sort itself out. For a team inundated with injuries this season, having depth and the ability to rest players will seem like a luxury. The Yankees will also be careful about playing Gregorius too much immediately after his return. That should help create enough playing time for everyone.

The thing that matters the most is that Gregorius is able to stay healthy and get up to speed as quick as possible. The Yankees hold a lead in the AL East. But they should expect to be challenged by the Rays and Red Sox the rest of the season. Of course, if Gregorius is able to return from injury and regain the form he had last year, it increases the chances of the Yankees being able to remain on top of the AL East.

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