Stanton out of G3 lineup; Hicks returns to CF

October 17th, 2019

NEW YORK -- was on the field for batting practice prior to Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, but the Yankees slugger is uncertain when his right quadriceps strain will permit him to play the outfield or run the bases. In the meantime, got the start in center field, playing there for the first time since Aug. 3.

“It's pretty similar to 48 hours ago. Just going to see what we can do,” Stanton said. “It's not the best, but I'm able to hit. We're at least that far right now. I don't have much time. Time is not on my side right now. I'm doing what I can.”

Stanton sustained the injury legging out a second-inning infield single in ALCS Game 1 at Houston’s Minute Maid Park on Saturday night. He played six more innings before being removed for defense, slugging a sixth-inning home run, but he did not appear in the Yanks’ 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Astros in Game 2 on Sunday night.

“Outfield is the biggest question,” Stanton said. “Those are the same steps as on the baselines. That's going to be the biggest hurdle right now. … I can hit. I've got to move around more and see what I've got.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that if this were the regular season, Stanton’s injury is significant enough that it would require a stint on the injured list. New York is reluctant to replace Stanton on the ALCS roster, because doing so would render him ineligible to play in the World Series.

“We’re trying to strike that balance,” Boone said. “I feel like we're in a good spot, lineup-wise. Obviously, it gets tougher the further you go, especially when you only have a three-man bench anyway. So those are all things that we have to consider.”

If the Yankees were to make an injury replacement, their candidates include infielder/outfielder Tyler Wade -- who was on the ALDS roster, but later subbed out in favor of Hicks -- or a pair of first basemen in the right-handed-hitting Luke Voit and left-handed-hitting rookie Mike Ford. 

Outfielder Clint Frazier has been working out at the club’s complex in Tampa, Fla., as has Mike Tauchman, whom general manager Brian Cashman told the New York Post is once again healthy after sustaining a left calf strain on Sept. 8.

Boone declined to identify the medical grade of Stanton's strain, but noted that the slugger has been lobbying to be in the lineup.

“He wants to play, but we've also had some real conversations about [the fact that Stanton has] got to be honest with where we're at,” Boone said. “There is an injury in there, so it’s just as best we can, understanding that there's a ton at stake. He wants to be a part of that, understanding we’ve got a really good team around him. But yeah, he wants it pretty bad.”

After playing a career-low 18 games during the regular season due to a myriad of injuries, Stanton started the club's first four postseason games this year, going 3-for-10 (.300) with a homer, two RBIs and four walks.

With Stanton out, Hicks was back in the Yanks’ starting lineup, batting ninth and playing center field. Hicks’ return shifted Brett Gardner from center to left, taking the place of Cameron Maybin, who started Game 2 for Stanton.

If Stanton is unable to run, that would leave the Yankees with only Maybin and catcher Austin Romine as potential pinch-runners. The Yanks, who are carrying 13 pitchers, already have no infielders on their bench.

Hicks once believed that his season was over due to a flexor strain in his right elbow, with Tommy John surgery having been mentioned as a possibility.

Hicks entered ALCS Game 2 as a 10th-inning pinch-hitter in Game 2, grounding out to first base.

“I was encouraged by what we saw the other day,” Boone said. “Obviously it was only one at-bat, but it looked like Aaron was taking pitches with ease and he got off a good swing. I feel like Aaron's one of those guys that likes this. The bigger the carrot, he's kind of wired and equipped for that.”

Big swinging

didn’t appear to have missed a beat early in the AL Division Series sweep of the Twins, returning from a left oblique strain to go 4-for-9 with two doubles and two RBIs in the first two games. Over his next three games, the slugger went hitless in 12 at-bats against Twins and Astros hurlers, with two walks.

“He's a great hitter that can wreck a game in a hurry,” Boone said. “He's been pitched pretty tough against elite pitching, and those [slumps] are going to happen in the postseason. It's just a matter of when you get a pitch, taking advantage. Those are fewer and far between this time of year. I'm confident in his ability to go out there and have his level of at-bat.”

Boone said Encarnacion’s oblique has not been a concern.

“I understand that everything's magnified [in the postseason], but it is baseball and hitting,” Boone said. “There's a lot of failure that goes with it.”

In the conversation

As the first manager to post 100-plus victories in his first two Major League seasons, Boone’s name has been heavily circulated as a candidate for the AL Manager of the Year Award -- and deservedly so, according to two of his players.

“I think he's done a great job of just putting guys in the right positions to succeed,” said reliever Chad Green. “I think through the course of the year, obviously, we've had a lot of injuries and stuff like that, but for him to just keep a positive mindset -- I think it goes a long way in the clubhouse. I think just communication with players and just putting them in the right position.”

The Yankees placed 30 players on the injured list this season (39 stints), a Major League record.

“He's just done a great job of just finding any way to get everything out of that player,” added reliever Tommy Kahnle. “He just kept us together as a group through the time. We were just overcoming a lot of adversity with all the injuries and stuff, so I think he's done a great job with that and everything this year has just gone the right way. I think he's done a great job.”

Family affair

With his club three victories away from the World Series, Boone said that he watched Game 3 of the National League Championship Series between the Cardinals and Nationals with his father, Bob. The elder Boone is the senior advisor to Washington general manager Mike Rizzo.

“I did watch it with him; quite a bit of it. It was reserved,” Boone said. “Man, I can't have too good of a conversation with him right now. It was one of my son's birthdays, so we had dinner and cake and sat around and watched the game a little bit. We didn't talk a lot about it, but [Stephen] Strasburg was obviously on top of things last night. It was kind of quiet.”

This date in Yankees history

Oct. 15, 2001: The Yankees become the first team to win a best-of-five series after losing the first two games at home, completing their AL Division Series comeback with a 5-3 victory over the Athletics. New York’s bullpen allowed just two hits in 4 2/3 scoreless innings