Yankees hopeful of LeMahieu’s return but concerns persist

LeMahieu during a training session at Tampa
Michael Bennington
Wednesday December 21, 2022

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NEW YORK — With the return of record-setting slugger Aaron Judge and the addition of All-Star left-handed starter Carlos Rodon, the Yankees have crossed off most of their shopping list before Christmas. They are also hopeful to get back DJ LeMahieu in action at the earliest. Between hopes and concerns, they continue to swing back and forth.

With each passing day, it looks like LeMahieu’s fractured toe has healed and he won’t need surgery that could keep him out of games in 2023.

“No, not right now,” manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday before his participation in a holiday grocery and toy giveaway event. “I don’t want to ever want to rule anything out, but I’m pretty excited about where he’s at right now physically.”

LeMahieu has been able to play baseball without pain in Tampa for the last few weeks.

“He’s doing really well,” Boone added. “He’s in Tampa right now. LeMahieu has been at the player development complex pretty much every day doing everything from hitting and throwing, agility work, running.”

This is a big change from the second half of last season when LeMahieu’s broken toe made it hard for him to hit. The two-time batting champion hit .292 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI in his first 105 games, but from August 3 on, he hit .167 with one home run and four RBI in 30 games while hurting.

The Yankees tried shutting LeMahieu down for three days in August to help his toe feel better, but that only made things worse and put him on the IL for 3 1/2 weeks. He came back for the last week of the regular season, but going 4-for-16 at the plate in five games wasn’t enough to convince the Yankees to put him on their roster for the Division Series or ALCS.

When the Yankees look back, they wonder if they should have put LeMahieu on a long break sooner, maybe in July.

“Yeah, there was all that there and that’s what we ended up doing (later),” Boone said. “It’s like it was this moving target of an injury. It was a dicey diagnosis of what’s the course of action. And even as we moved forward through this winter, it’s like ‘What’s the best course of action?’”

Now, the Yankees are very hopeful that LeMahieu, who is 34, will be fully healthy by the time spring training starts in mid-February and will be done with this problem for good. The infielder, who is only two seasons into a six-year, $90 million contract that pays him $15 million a year, is a big part of the Yankees’ offense as their usual leadoff hitter.

“So far, knock on wood, it looks like the rest helped, and he’s been able to build up pretty well,” Boone said. “The injury is still serious, but I think we’re in a good place.”

What do you think, leave a comment below?

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