TAMPA, Fla. — Aaron Boone expected to be in a Baltimore hotel room Wednesday, where he would have spent time hashing out the nine names in the Yankees’ first batting order of the season. He would have boarded a team bus to Camden Yards on Thursday, read the names in the coaches’ room, then asked bench coach Carlos Mendoza to print them on an official lineup card.
Instead, Boone is at his home in Greenwich, Conn., having accepted the reality that the Major League season will not begin as originally scheduled. Instead of handing the ball to ace Gerrit Cole for that Opening Day start against the Orioles, Boone said he planned to visit the hurler Wednesday afternoon to play catch in the front yard.
“It’s all been weird and an adjustment,” Boone said. “In my personal bubble of the world, [there is] the frustration of that you get so close to Opening Day and the start of the season, and it’s not here. All the work that goes into that, that’s disappointing, that’s frustrating. But you also temper it with, this is all bigger than me and us and baseball. Right now is the time to do our part.”
With the season opener pushed back to at least the middle of May, Boone said he has been remaining in contact with players via text messages and the club’s Teamworks messaging system. Boone estimated that about 10 players continue to report to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., a group that has included Mike Ford, Clint Frazier, J.A. Happ, DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Giancarlo Stanton, Tyler Wade and Luke Voit.
“Our job, when we come back, ultimately is going to be bigger than the game and all of us as well,” Boone said. “As we’ve seen throughout time, sports can play a role in the healing, a diversion, a distraction, a sense of normalcy. We have a role in our society to play — albeit, it certainly is going to be different than usual this year. We’ll be eager to hopefully go out and do our part.”
Judge said last week that if there is any silver lining to be gleaned from the current situation, it would be that the Yankees project to be closer to full health when the season eventually begins. Judge has been mending a stress fracture in his first right rib and is said to be recovered from pneumothorax (collapsed lung) that Boone believes could date as far back as September.
“Aaron is still in the healing phase of that rib bone,” Boone said. “I think he'll be re-evaluated again in a few weeks to see if there's continued healing with that rib. He's been able to work out, doing a lot of lower-body stuff. He is able to do some upper body stuff, some overhead things, so he's going in pretty much every day in Tampa there to continue his rehab.”
Stanton, who sustained a Grade 1 right calf strain in late February that would have kept him out of the originally scheduled season opener, has been running and hitting on the field. Boone said Stanton would be ready to play in Spring Training games right now.
“He's pretty much over the hump,” Boone said.
Further down the line, left-hander James Paxton (recovery from back surgery) is continuing his throwing program at home in Wisconsin, while outfielder Aaron Hicks (recovery from Tommy John surgery) has resumed throwing at home in Arizona. Paxton has said he could pitch in Major League games as soon as the middle of May, while Hicks’ projected return date is set for June, July or August.
Yankees Minor Leaguers have been in self-quarantine since March 15, when it was announced a Minor League player tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the shuttering of the club’s Minor League complex. A second Minor Leaguer tested positive on March 17.
With the exception of that second player, all Minor Leaguers will end their self-quarantine Thursday, when they will be encouraged to return to their respective homes if possible. According to the Yankees, no other players or employees have been tested.