CHICAGO _ Friday night, while the Yankees were trying to rebound from Thursday night's loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, the heart of their lineup was 782 miles southeast in Durham, N.C.
Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge were assigned to the Yankees' Triple-A team Friday afternoon for minor league rehabs. It is their expected last stop before returning to the Bronx and the major league lineup, which Aaron Boone said is expected during this upcoming, 10-game home stand.
Stanton, who has been on the injured list since April 1, is expected to be activated off the IL as soon as Tuesday. He has already played three minor league rehab games with the High Class-A Tampa Tarpons and is further along in his recovery.
Judge, who has been on the IL with a strained left oblique since April 21, will be playing in his first minor-league rehab game on Friday and should be back before the Yankees leave the Bronx for London on June 26.
"With Giancarlo, we feel like we might finish him off this weekend and he'd be ready for us pretty early in the homestand," the Yankee manager said before Friday night's game against the White Sox. "With Aaron, he'll be DHing these first two days, I think he's going to play right field probably Sunday, but we'll want him to get out there and get some back-to-back games where he is on defense. It's more a building-up and getting-into-baseball shape sort of thing. Obviously Giancarlo is a little further along.
"But we feel really good about physically where Aaron's at right now."
Stanton has missed all but three games this season with a mysterious succession of injuries. It began the first weekend of the season when he strained his left biceps. At some point during his rehab for that injury the Yankees and Stanton decided he needed to address a shoulder issue, which they said he'd already been dealing with. Then he was suddenly diagnosed with a shoulder strain when Boone was pressed on the issue of what the actual diagnosis was. Then, getting ready for rehab from those injuries, Stanton strained his left calf.
Boone was excited at the possibility of getting the slugger back into the lineup. In his first season with the Yankees last year, Stanton hit 38 homers and drove in 100 runs, mostly from the DH spot as he nursed a left hamstring issue.
Judge is a little further away, but Boone reiterated that he still expects him back at some point during the 10-day homestand that begins on Monday with the Rays, Astros and Blue Jays coming into the Bronx. The Yankees next roadtrip is the MLB showcase game in London against the Red Sox.
He played in 20 games this season before suffering the oblique injury during an at-bat on April 20.
"With that injury, obviously hitting was going to be the last thing," Boone said. "The thing we were going to be conservative with and most careful with was to make sure that (discomfort) was completely out of there before we start ramping him up. Now, it's because the nature of that injury too, you're (shut) down and you've got to build up and get back in shape a little bit. I think the work he's been able to put in, not only at home before he left, but down in Tampa, we feel like he's in really good shape.
"Now it's just a matter of playing in the game," Boone continued. "Getting the at-bats and playing on defense and all that goes with that."
Judge was hitting .288/.404/.521 with five homers and 11 RBIs when he went down. Last season, he hit 27 homers and drove in 67 RBIs despite missing 45 games with a broken wrist.
While the Yankees went into Friday night's game in first place in the American League East despite going through an epidemic of injuries this season, those are two bats that they need.
So the idea of them getting one step closer is exciting for Boone.
"Obviously it's getting closer to that, you feel like they are at a point where they are doing well. Obviously they've got to get through these final steps and hurdles and rack up some time there, but starting to plan and getting excited for them," Boone said. "Hopefully they join us at some point in the homestand."
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