Gardner returns from IL confident in 2019 club

NEW YORK -- As the longest-tenured Yankee, Brett Gardner has welcomed new teammates during many of his Trade Deadlines, while also experiencing others where substantial changes did not occur. With 2019 in the latter category, the outfielder believes that his club can win it all with what they have in-house.

"I wasn't sure what to expect, either way," Gardner said on Friday. "Obviously we've got a great team and we've got a good group of guys that has played pretty good baseball up until this point. We've obviously got our most important baseball left."

Gardner was activated from the 10-day injured list prior to Friday's game, with his left knee inflammation having subsided enough to return to regular duty in the outfield. Left-hander J.A. Happ was also placed on the paternity list, as his wife Morgan is expecting the couple's third child.

In corresponding roster moves, left-hander Stephen Tarpley and infielder/outfielder Tyler Wade were optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Happ is expected to return in time to start Sunday against the Red Sox.

Following their quiet Deadline, the Yankees are banking on having more stars return from their crowded IL in upcoming weeks, particularly Luis Severino and Dellin Betances. The right-handers have been sidelined all season and are continuing to throw as they attempt to return from right lat strains.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Severino is expected to throw from a mound on Friday when the club is in Toronto, with Betances' progression from flat ground to mound thought to be shortly behind Severino's.

"Those guys will give us a big boost, I'm sure," Gardner said. "We'll continue to do the things that we've done that have led us to pretty good success up to this point."

Gardner said he hasn't been thinking much about the Astros, who pulled off a Deadline stunner by acquiring right-hander Zack Greinke from the D-backs in exchange for four prospects. Adding Greinke to a rotation that already included Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole promises to make Houston a formidable challenge in any postseason series.

"That's not a team that we play the rest of the season, so to be honest, I'm not too concerned about them," Gardner said. "I'm concerned about continuing to play good baseball, win the division and hopefully finish the year with the best record [to] hopefully give us home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. That would be my goal. Hopefully they're a team that we have to play against in October."

A Captain's legacy

On the 40th anniversary of Thurman Munson's passing, the Yankees paid tribute to their captain's memory on Friday, inviting widow Diana Munson to throw the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game against the Red Sox. She hugged pitcher James Paxton before lobbing the ball to Munson's former teammate, Willie Randolph.

"It was a little tougher than I expected," Diana Munson said. "I've thrown out balls before, and tonight there was extra emotion. People have sent me texts all day wishing me well and talking about the impact that Thurman had on their lives. That's been difficult. Anytime you can look up and see him running from first to third and playing with reckless abandon the way he did, it's tough. But I'm also proud to be here and glad that my family could appreciate this moment with me."

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Munson's daughters, Kelly and Tracy, were also on hand to witness the moment. At the direction of late principal owner George M. Steinbrenner, the Yankees immediately retired Munson's No. 15 after his death in an Aug. 2, 1979, plane crash, and Diana Munson said the organization has continued to show loyalty and love to the family throughout the decades that have followed.

"I can never say enough about the New York Yankees," she said. "In my opinion, if you're going to be in the sports world, this is the place to be. They're loyal and faithful to their players and their former players. They take care. We're really all one big family."

Randolph, who played alongside Munson on the 1976-79 Yankees clubs, said that the second day of August is always bittersweet for him.

"I was basically a rookie when I came up and Thurman took me under his wing," Randolph said. "He used to call me 'Rook,' and I have a bright yellow T-shirt with lime green letters that says 'ROOK' on the front of it. I still have it to this day; it's in my closet. It's got moth holes in it, I cut the sleeves off and everything. That's the impact he had on me. Anytime I can be close to this family and give my props to Thurman, who taught me how to be a Yankee, that's what it's all about for me."

Sitting out
Didi Gregorius was held out of the lineup on Friday after straining a ligament between his left ring and pinkie fingers in the fourth inning of New York's 7-5 win over the D-backs on Wednesday. Gregorius sustained the injury when he rolled over his glove hand while fielding Alex Avila's infield single.

"He's day-to-day. He's pretty sore today," Boone said. "We're hoping to avoid an IL situation, but we'll just kind of see how that unfolds now over the next couple days."

Comeback trail
• CC Sabathia (right knee inflammation) is responding well to his cortisone and lubricant injections, and the Yankees believe that his IL stint will be brief. Sabathia also had a precautionary MRI on his left shoulder that revealed no significant issues.

• Gary Sanchez (left groin strain) will not be activated from the IL when eligible on Saturday, but Boone said he is "very close to being an option." Sanchez has taken batting practice, performed catching drills and will run the bases on Saturday.

• Giancarlo Stanton (right PCL strain) has not resumed baseball activities, though he has resumed treadmill workouts and his range of motion is improving, according to Boone.

• Luke Voit (sports hernia) is feeling better after having a cortisone injection, but Boone said the Yankees do not know if Voit will be able to avoid surgery.

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