NEW YORK -- The Yankees envisioned Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton as a lethal force hitting back-to-back, but now that they have seen what Didi Gregorius can do between those sluggers, manager Aaron Boone has no plans to dislodge his shortstop from the No. 3 spot in the lineup.Gregorius homered
NEW YORK -- The Yankees envisioned Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton as a lethal force hitting back-to-back, but now that they have seen what Didi Gregorius can do between those sluggers, manager Aaron Boone has no plans to dislodge his shortstop from the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
Gregorius homered for the third straight game in Tuesday's 8-3 victory over the Twins, owning a team-leading eight homers while continuing to lead the Majors in RBIs (27) and slugging percentage (.787).
"I'm not a home run hitter," Gregorius said. "I'm trying to hit line drives all over the place. If they go out, they go out. I'm not trying to change anything, I'm staying consistent to what I can do, and that's hit line drives all over the place, line to line."
Earlier on Tuesday, Boone said that the lineup "definitely has a good feel" with Gregorius hitting between Judge and Stanton.
Boone watched Gregorius during the early part of his career with the Reds and D-backs, but through his first few weeks piloting the Yankees, he has come away with a deeper appreciation of Gregorius' ability to play the game.
"I know I feel good when he walks to the plate with runners on base," Boone said. "He just continues to do things that really help us win games, impacting on both sides of the ball. The patience has continued to grow, and with that, when you make a mistake to him, usually it's an extra-base hit. He's obviously in a great place right now."
Gregorius' 27 RBIs are tied for the fifth-highest April total in franchise history, trailing Tino Martinez (34, 1997), Alex Rodriguez (34, 2007), Martinez (29, 1998) and Dave Winfield (29, 1988).
"I'm sticking to a game plan," Gregorius said. "You see how a guy pitches you and stick to that, and if they try to pitch around you, take a walk. Everybody knows that I don't walk that much, so I'm learning to try and lay off of those pitches and try to get on base for the next guy."
Gregorius has hit safely in all eight games on this homestand, batting .400 with five homers and 14 RBIs.
"The thing with him is, he's not missing his pitch," Judge said. "The times when people come after him and put something in the zone, he's putting the barrel of the bat on it. He's not missing his pitch, and it's fun to hit in front of a guy like that. You've just got to get on first base."
The Yankees added right-hander A.J. Cole to the active roster on Tuesday, one day after acquiring the 26-year-old from the Nationals in exchange for cash considerations. Cole replaces right-hander David Hale, who was designated for assignment after pitching two scoreless innings in Monday's victory.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.
"He's stretched out as a starter right now, which is helpful for us," Boone said of Cole. "We do feel like there's some upside from a stuff standpoint, being a little bit younger, and he has had some points of success in the big leagues. He's a guy that throws pretty hard, with a good breaking ball.
"We're hoping maybe a change of scenery is a spark for him and he can give us something. But we feel good about having him down in our bullpen right now if we get into a situation where we need some length. Who knows? Maybe down the road he becomes an option to be a starter at some point, too."
• The Yankees are awaiting word on Christopher Austin's suspension, but with that discipline imminent, Boone wants to get Neil Walker's bat going, especially against right-handed pitching. Walker entered play on Tuesday batting .183 in 60 at-bats, and 8-for-46 against righties.
"Getting him going is important because he adds length to our lineup as a switch-hitter," Boone said. "When he's right, he's a real quality big league hitter."
• Boone plans to have Austin Romine catch the struggling Sonny Gray in Wednesday's 6:35 p.m. ET contest against the Twins, with Gary Sanchez set to catch Thursday's matinee.
"I don't want to get too much into, 'He's catching this guy all the time,'" Boone said, "but … when you have those chances when there is a day-game-night-game situation, or I know Gary is going to get a day, we'll pick the matchup that we like a little bit better. We'll be cognizant of that."
• Brandon Drury (severe migraines) remains on schedule to play in a Minor League rehab game for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday.
• Greg Bird (right ankle surgery) is expected to travel to the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., when the team flies to the West Coast on Friday, and could soon begin playing in Minor League games.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.