Giancarlo Stanton will be back with the New York Yankees for this weekend's series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, even though that timeline seemed beyond optimistic for somebody whose timeline is almost always upended by interruptions, setbacks or downright incorrect diagnoses.
Stanton's been out since April 16 with a hamstring injury and was slated to miss six weeks, so for the first time in forever (?) he's recovered promptly based on the initial estimation. As expected, he'll be eased into action, too, and exclusively log reps at DH before being integrated into the outfield picture -- which needs him badly after Harrison Bader's injury.
The Yankees are sending Oswaldo Cabrera down to Triple-A with Stanton, Josh Donaldson and Tommy Kahnle making their returns. That's not exactly a loss, because Cabrera's provided negative worth to the team in terms of WAR this year, but it makes you wonder how manager Aaron Boone will handle the lineup flexibility at the onset.
Willie Calhoun is still here, and he's logged just six games in the outfield out of the 33 he's played this year (with the rest coming in the DH spot). Does Boone to plan to use him on defense more while Stanton gets back up to speed?
Because Donaldson's return also creates a bit of an issue: DJ LeMahieu will be displaced from third base (if we're to believe Boone saying JD will be an everyday player when he's back). LeMahieu's been filling in at first as Anthony Rizzo deals with a neck issue, but it makes you wonder what'll happen when Rizzo is back to full strength, Donaldson is entrenched at third, and Stanton is eating up the DH reps.
How will Aaron Boone handle Yankees' flexibility when Giancarlo Stanton returns?
Gleyber Torres can't lose any reps right now. His bat has been better than DJ's and he's on pace for his best season since 2019. Even if the Yankees wanted to give Anthony Volpe some breathers, it'd be difficult. because Isiah Kiner-Falefa is the backup shortstop ... but is needed more in the outfield right now with Harrison Bader on the injured list. Torres is not a shortstop.
So what's the answer? Because it feels like somebody has to lose reps, whether it's LeMahieu, Donaldson or Torres if Stanton is baked into the DH spot for the time being (and, let's face it, probably for a majority of the rest of the season, if we're being realistic). Either that, or we're looking at Stanton getting frequent off days if the Yankees want to be extra careful.
Assuming everyone's back Friday, the lineup should probably look like this:
1. Gleyber Torres, 2B
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Josh Donaldson, 3B
6. Jake Bauers/Greg Allen, LF
7. Anthony Volpe, SS
8. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, CF
9. Jose Trevino, C
That leaves a bench of LeMahieu, Calhoun, one of Bauers/Allen and Kyle Higashioka. We can only hope one of the starting-caliber players benefit from a bit less frequent playing time, because that seems like it'll be the situation for the next couple of weeks.