Posted on April 28, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
After surviving almost the entire month of April without their starting shortstop, the New York Yankees will be pleased to welcome back Didi Gregorius from the DL on Friday. The Bronx Bombers are set to activate Gregorius for his season debut as they begin a weekend series with the Baltimore Orioles. New York’s young roster has more than held down the fort early in the season, but the Yankees will nevertheless be happy to welcome back Gregorius, who was one of their most impactful offensive players last year.
Gregorius hurt his shoulder while playing in an exhibition game with Team Netherlands during the World Baseball Classic. He was expected to miss the first month of the season but has recovered well and went 8 for 18 in five minor league rehab games, so he appears ready to hit the ground running on Friday.
“Didi is a great player,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said Thursday. “If we are getting the same guy we have seen for the last year-and-a-half, it is going to make us better and more comfortable every day and give Joe obviously a deeper lineup.”
In 2016, his second season in New York, Gregorius hit .276 with career highs in home runs with 20 and doubles with 32. He also proved to be a reliable shortstop defensively. His consistency on both sides of the ball had the Yankees penciling in Gregorius as one of their most important players for 2017, making it a tough blow when they lost him to injury before the season began.
With Gregorius out for the early part of the season, the Yankees looked to Ronald Torreyes to fill the void, and he responded accordingly. The light-hitting Torreyes is batting .290 with five extra-base hits this year. Pete Kozma has also helped fill in at shortstop.
“It’s great to get Didi back,” manager Joe Girardi said Thursday. “Obviously last season he played extremely well for us. We’ve been kind of fortunate because Torreyes has played so well, but it’s good to have him back.”
Girardi figures to have a great deal of freedom with regard to where he’ll put Gregorius in the lineup upon his return. Heading into the season, Gregorius appeared to be in line to hit towards the top of the order. However, Jacoby Ellsbury has had a strong start to the season and has emerged as a possible solution in the leadoff spot, allowing Girardi the flexibility to possibly slot Gregorius somewhere in the middle of the order.
“I’m going to have to make some adjustments now that Didi is coming back,” Girardi said of the team’s batting order. “He’s going to hit, you would think, somewhere in the middle area. I’m going to have to figure how to separate the lefties.”
In addition to Ellsbury, Starlin Castro, Chase Headley, and Aaron Judge have all gotten off to fast starts this year, giving Gregorius plenty of company in the middle of the order. At the start of spring training, there was a chance Gregorius would have to do some heavy lifting in the middle of the order, but it now looks like he’ll have plenty of help around him.
At 13-7 and just one game back of the Orioles for first place in the AL East, the Yankees have survived their time without Gregorius better than they could have hoped. With Gary Sanchez set to begin minor league rehab games next week after being lost to a biceps injury the first week of the season, the Yankees are well on their way to being completely healthy and are in great shape heading towards the end of April.