ST. PETERSBURG -- As you may have gathered from his postgame victory tweets, there is no Yankees player with a more relentlessly positive disposition than Didi Gregorius, which is why the shortstop showed some spring in his step while he observed early batting practice on Monday at Tropicana Field.
Though an MRI revealed that Gregorius sustained a cartilage tear in his right wrist on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, diving into home plate to score the walk-off run that clinched New York's postseason berth, Gregorius said he believes he will be able to play before the regular season concludes.
"I feel way better," said Gregorius, who received a cortisone injection on Sunday. "It's a big improvement from yesterday to today. I'm feeling stronger. I'll get some exercises in and wait to see what's going to happen. ... I said the same thing yesterday; I said I'll be ready to go before the season ends."
Gregorius spent part of the afternoon utilizing a gripper to increase strength, and later traded a bulky ice wrap for a more manageable light brace. Though he was pleased by Gregorius' optimism, manager Aaron Boone is taking more of a wait-and-see approach.
"He felt significantly better obviously with some of the range of motion things he's able to do," Boone said. "I would also temper it. The true indicator will come Wednesday when he's re-evaluated and we see how he does, and if we're able to start baseball activities from there, seeing how it takes when he gets a ball and a bat in his hand."
With Gregorius unavailable, Adeiny Hechavarria started at shortstop on Monday at Tampa Bay, and Boone said Hechavarria could "factor in a big way" through the final games of the regular season.
Hechavarria may share time at shortstop with Gleyber Torres, who can slide over based upon the matchup, with Neil Walker logging reps at second base. But Boone would clearly prefer to be giving playing time to Gregorius, whom he has referred to as "the captain of the infield."
"At least for today, another sign of optimism," Boone said. "We'll just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best."
The Yankees are no closer to deciding between J.A. Happ, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka for the starting assignment in the American League Wild Card Game, according to Boone.
"It's something we kind of kick around and talk about every day, but really I would say we're not close," Boone said. "I could see any of three or four scenarios, frankly, playing out. Obviously these are still really important games for us. We're playing with that kind of urgency right now.
"We'll continue to have conversations. Hopefully by the end of the week we're in a position to where we can kind of shape it and manipulate it how we want. I feel like whatever decision we make is potentially a really good one. I feel like we're choosing from some really good options."
Happ started on Sunday, which would put him on regular rest to face the Red Sox on Friday at Fenway Park, then again on regular rest for Oct. 3. But Boone said the nod could still go to Severino or Tanaka, who are starting Tuesday and Wednesday against the Rays, respectively.
"A lot of people have read too much into how Happ is set up right now," Boone said. "Happ is very much in the picture as a possibility for us and one of those good choices I would say we have about a Wild Card [starter], but how it lines up right now isn't by design or anything. We're trying to line us up to be the most effective to try and win games this week."
The Rays were at the forefront of the 'bullpening' revolution, using relief pitchers to counter deficiencies from their starters. That made Tropicana Field an appropriate place for Boone to attempt the tactic, seeking to offer additional rest to his rotation.
Jonathan Holder was tabbed as the Yankees' "opener," with Sonny Gray likely to serve as the bridge reliever to get the ball to the late innings.
"There's no question that [the Rays] started this and obviously have had a lot of success, so it's triggered a lot of conversation," Boone said. "A lot of people are thinking this is an option that makes some sense on varying degrees for different clubs. I would say it's kind of a big factor. It's a copycat league, I guess, as they say."
This date in Yankees history
Sept. 24, 2015: Alex Rodriguez becomes the eighth player in Major League history to score 2,000 career runs, touching the plate in the third inning of a 3-2 win over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium.