TORONTO -- The Yankees believe that they can create enough playing time for their infielders once Didi Gregorius rejoins the lineup, in part by altering DJ LeMahieu's job assignment. Manager Aaron Boone sees the versatile defender returning to a role that was initially envisioned for him, garnering at-bats by spelling
TORONTO -- The Yankees believe that they can create enough playing time for their infielders once Didi Gregorius rejoins the lineup, in part by altering DJ LeMahieu's job assignment. Manager Aaron Boone sees the versatile defender returning to a role that was initially envisioned for him, garnering at-bats by spelling teammates at three different positions.
The plan makes sense on paper, but writing out a lineup without LeMahieu's name may prove more difficult than Boone anticipates. With Gregorius’ return hours away, LeMahieu enjoyed another big performance on Thursday, stroking a pair of doubles and driving in two runs to help lead the Yankees to a 6-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
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"That guy rakes," said Aaron Hicks, who cracked a three-run homer as part of a four-run second inning against Toronto starter Edwin Jackson. "He's a true hitter. He's a guy that hits in any location, pretty much all over the field. He's a great defender. He's been huge for us."
Supporting a stellar seven-inning outing from J.A. Happ that snapped the Yanks' three-game losing streak, LeMahieu delivered a run scoring double in the second inning and an RBI single in the fourth. The knocks off Jackson improved LeMahieu's average to a Major League-best .491 (26-for-53) with runners in scoring position.
LeMahieu's cool confidence in pressurized situations has earned him a nickname within the Yankees' clubhouse walls, as revealed after Thursday's game: "The Machine," bestowed upon LeMahieu by catcher Gary Sánchez.
"Yeah, that was started by Gary," LeMahieu said, with a smile. "That's his thing. It makes me laugh."
LeMahieu, who added a sixth-inning double as part of a 3-for-4 performance, is batting .430 (34-for-79) with runners on base and .323 overall.
"For me, it's about taking the same approach as I do during all my at-bats," LeMahieu said. "I don't usually hit for a ton of power, so I need to come through in situations to impact the game. It's not always like that. I'm just on a good roll."
With Gregorius returning to the active roster on Friday -- infielder Thairo Estrada was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Thursday's game in a corresponding move -- Boone has outlined a rough plan to have Gregorius play shortstop two of three days, with Gleyber Torres shifting from second base to shortstop on the other day.
That, plus any off-days for Torres, would give LeMahieu playing time at second base. He's also expected to play twice a week as Gio Urshela's understudy at third base, and could see time spelling Luke Voit at first base. Yet the way he is swinging the bat, no one would fault Boone for wanting to get LeMahieu to the plate as often as possible.
"He'll get his day here and there, but he's not coming out anytime soon," Boone said. "He'll get his day a week, which I think will be a good thing over the long haul and keeping him fresh, but DJ will be in there."
LeMahieu said that no one has discussed what the next two weeks will look like for him. His plan, as it usually is, will be to come to the ballpark and look at the lineup card, then grab a glove.
“I'm prepared to play multiple spots,” LeMahieu said. “We'll definitely be excited to have Didi back, that's for sure.”
As the Yankees pelted Jackson for six runs (two earned) and six hits in 3 1/3 innings, Urshela hit a solo homer to back Happ, who limited his twice-former club to Eric Sogard's sixth-inning homer in a 102-pitch effort.
"I had a lot of emotion tonight, so I was trying to be as methodical as I could, just move onto the next pitch," Happ said. "I've been trying to do that lately. Gary did a really nice job back there tonight setting up with his targets and calling a really good game.”
Happ said that he can't help but marvel at LeMahieu, the envisioned super-sub who just might be too good to leave on the bench.
"He's been incredible," Happ said. "Never tries to do too much, takes what he's given and has been coming up with big hit after big hit. He's a guy we're definitely excited when he comes up."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.