NEW YORK — The Yankees are optimistic that Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton and even Aaron Hicks will be ready on opening day, when baseball reboots after a three-month coronavirus shutdown. Brian Cashman said Tuesday that he expects the three, who were on the injured list when spring training was halted, to have enough time in the spring training reboot to be game-ready.
The Yankees GM said that the three really need reps and game experience to be ready for the expected opening day on July 23.
“I think on all of them I’m optimistic they would be ready to go when the bell rings,” the Yankees GM said in a conference call on Tuesday afternoon. “I also don’t want to put them in a position where I’m stating with certainty in advance before they even have been reintroduced to our personnel to make promises I can’t keep either so I’m trying to get myself a little wiggle room and defer to how difficult the sport can be and challenging it can be … I think health-wise, we’re in a good position where these things are resolved or resolving to the point where it’s just really more of a conditioning than an injury matter.”
Judge had just begun hitting off a tee when the Yankees’ spring training complex was closed down after four players tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. That was almost three months after he received the diagnosis of a fractured right rib with a partially collapsed lung in March. Stanton, who suffered a strained right calf in spring training, has not done outfield work, but Cashman said he was confident that Stanton at least could be in the lineup as a designated hitter. Hicks, who had Tommy John surgery in October, has been hitting for a few weeks.
Paxton, who had back surgery in early February, had just begun throwing when spring training 1.0 was shut down. He has been throwing simulated innings and has said repeatedly he expects to be a full go when the teams reconvene.
As the country continues to try and contain the coronavirus which has killed over 125,000 Americans, the Yankees and other teams are starting back up in a completely new and unfamiliar world. Cashman reiterated the concerns of operating a baseball team in a pandemic, but said he was hopeful that MLB could safely pull off a 60-game regular season and playoffs.
The Yankees and the rest of baseball are expected to report to their ballpark on Wednesday to begin physicals and their coronavirus testing protocols as MLB tries to boot up a 2020 season. The Yankees have had a total of seven reported, confirmed cases.
Cashman revealed Tuesday that one case required hospitalization, but that patient has recovered. Per MLB rules, Cashman said that they would not be able to identify players or staff who test positive for the coronavirus now or during the season if a player is placed on the COVID-19 IL.
No Yankees player or staff member has asked to opt out of the 2020 season. Four players across MLB have opted out and two coaches in the Twins organization were told they would not be allowed to be on the field because of underlying health issues.
Cashman said that they expect to have staggered arrivals with some players having a tougher time getting back into the country than others. He said their hope is to have the first workout Friday, but definitely by Saturday.
Cashman said that he has nothing scheduled yet. He has discussed exhibition games with other GMs in the region, but would obviously prefer to workout something with the Mets to try and limit travel.
They will use Yankee Stadium and their Triple-A park in Scranton Wilkes-Barre for their taxi squad as they prepare for what is expected to be a July 23 opening day. That means the Yankees have had to think outside the box on how to jam what is usually a six-week ramp up spread over four fields, nine mounds and numerous batting cages into three weeks and limited space.
“We’re working with our stadium personnel to utilize every aspect of the blueprint of Yankee Stadium,” Cashman said. “And that’s not just your fields of play … . So we’ll be expanding and dispersing our players as they get divided up into assignments to each of those areas, dealing with the social distancing protocols. We’ll be utilizing the concourses and the stand obviously there’s two bullpens obviously and inside you have batting cages.
“The Great Hall, we can utilize throwing programs if we want. We’ve done that on rainy days even in season, you know the before fans ever showed up … . Now we have extenuating circumstances where, between the dugouts not being large enough to control everybody, so you’ll see players out in the stands. We’re thinking of extending in any aspect of the facility that we can utilize, whether it’s Legends (Club) to the concourses … we’ll set up various areas that the players can stretch or training tables that are in the open air.”
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