Yankees: Who’s the odd man out in the infield when Didi Gregroius returns?
Over the weekend Didi Gregorius began a minor league rehab assignment and if all goes well he could make his return within the next two weeks. Once he’s back he’s going to be the everyday shortstop which means somebody in the current Yankees infield is going to see their playing time decrease. Who will be the odd man out?
On Saturday Didi started his rehab assignment with the Class A-Advanced Tampa Tarpons and on Tuesday the plan is for him to be promoted to Triple-A Scranton. According to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Didi will likely need to spend a week or two with Railriders before rejoining the big league club to make his season debut.
I don’t think many of us expected we’d see Didi make his return before Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge but that seems very likely now considering he’s the only one who’s currently on a rehab assignment. This is great news for the Yankees but it also means that Boone and his coaching staff are going to have some tough decisions to make in the coming weeks.
Boone has already made it clear that when Didi returns he is going to be a regular in the lineup so what does that mean for guys like D.J. LeMahieu and Gio Urshela? Ever since Miguel Andujar got hurt the Yankees have predominantly featured a starting infield of Gio at third, LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres at shortstop. Once Didi comes back Torres will certainly shift back to second base so everyday at-bats for DJ and Gio might be hard to come by moving forward.
It’s unfair because neither one of them deserves to be benched at all but with Didi at short and Torres at second, only one of them can be the starting third basemen. Offensively both players have been terrific as well as extremely clutch but Urshela is the better defender at third and he doesn’t really play another position. There’s a chance we could see them split the playing time at third, but I think it’s more likely that LeMahieu will go back to being the super utility guy he was supposed to be before the season and play all over the infield.
With Stanton still out, the Yanks could potentially cut ties with Kendrys Morales to open up a spot at DH which would lead to more at-bats for LeMahieu. He could also rotate around the infield filling in at first, second or third to give some of the regulars like Didi and Luke Voit a half day off as the DH.
These are good problems to have and as we’ve seen so far this year these things usually have a way of working themselves out. That being said it’s hard to envision a scenario where LeMahieu or Urshela continues to play every day after Didi comes back unless another infielder gets hurt. Even though that would make the decision for Boone a lot easier to make nobody wants to see that happen after all the injuries the team has already suffered.
Now when it comes to who will be the odd man out on the 25-man roster that in all likelihood will be Thairo Estrada. It’s a shame because Estrada has been outstanding since his call-up but the infield is already crowded enough as it is. As good as he’s been as a reserve he’s probably better off getting everyday at-bats with the Railriders instead of sitting the bench in the majors and only playing once a week.
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Another player who will likely be impacted by Didi’s impending return is Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo has been out since early April with a calf strain but according to Boone, he is close to playing in some rehab games himself.
The Yankees have been smart to stretch out Tulo’s IL stint as long as possible because I think they realize that they really don’t have a spot for him on this team. It’s unfortunate for Tulo but there’s no way you could make a case for him to take anybody’s spot on the current roster once he’s healthy.
He’ll continue with his rehab in case they actually end up needing him somewhere but once he’s cleared to return to the majors it’s probably best for him and the Yankees to part ways.