NEW YORK -- Shut down from throwing for about two weeks, James Paxton believes that he will be able to rejoin the Yankees’ rotation in time to make a couple of starts prior to the postseason. In the meantime, manager Aaron Boone said that the club is discussing how they will plug the vacancy.
Diagnosed with a strain of his left flexor tendon following an MRI on Thursday, Paxton was relieved to learn that he will not require surgery. The left-hander has pitched to a 1-1 record with 6.64 ERA through five starts, having returned from lower back surgery performed in February.
“At first when it happened, I was thinking, ‘This can't be happening,’” Paxton said. “It just continued to get tighter and tighter. Considering the circumstances, I got very lucky with the injury. I was glad that it wasn't anything with the [ulnar collateral ligament]. It's perfectly healthy, so that's great news. It should be a short-term thing.”
Boone said that it appears unlikely that the Yankees will return to action until Tuesday at Atlanta, a series that leads into another off-day after the two-game Interleague series. Boone mentioned right-handers Jonathan Loaisiga, Michael King and Nick Nelson among the candidates to start when the Yankees do need a fifth starter.
“We’ll just kind of figure it out,” Boone said. “We won't have to make that decision yet, but obviously guys like King, Nelson and Lo are stretched out. We have a lot of people that can give us innings.”
Boone said that the starting pitchers at the club’s alternate training site in Moosic, Pa., will also be considered. Right-hander Clarke Schmidt impressed the coaching staff during Spring Training and Summer Camp; the 24-year-old Schmidt is rated the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline.
“He's doing really well and continues to get good reports,” Boone said. “It's been a very good work year for him. As we've had some attrition, he certainly very much is one of the guys we’ve talked about a lot and [he's] in the conversation.”
One complicating factor, Boone said, is that Schmidt is not currently on the club’s 40-man roster. Adding him would start Schmidt’s service-time clock, potentially leading to him becoming a free agent a year earlier.
“Him not being on the roster makes it not so simple, but he's certainly doing well down there and the reports we continue to get are strong,” Boone said.
Infielder Gleyber Torres’ estimated timetable for return is within the window of two to three weeks, according to Boone. Torres sustained Grade 1 strains of his left hamstring and left calf while running out a third-inning RBI grounder in Thursday’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.
“I would say it's at least a couple weeks, but kind of probably that two-to-three-week range is what we're thinking,” Boone said.
Outfielder Aaron Judge (right calf strain) was expected to return to the Yankees’ lineup on Saturday, the first day that he would have been eligible to come off the injured list. Boone said he anticipates that Judge will be in the lineup when the Yankees resume play.
“He looks good. He looks ready to go, so I expect when we return that Aaron will be in there,” Boone said.
Boone said that Judge and designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (left hamstring strain) were both on the field Friday at Yankee Stadium, taking batting practice against high-velocity machines.
“Giancarlo did some running outside on the field, probably about half-speed,” Boone said. “He continues to make really good improvements. Nothing imminent there, but he is making steady progress.”
The Yankees returned to their Summer Camp mode in Saturday’s workout, which was closed to the media. Boone said that in addition to batting practice and bullpen sessions, DJ LeMahieu (left thumb sprain) was able to hit off a tee and take ground balls.
“I’m excited about how he's progressed since the injury, because he was in some pretty good pain and had some pretty good swelling in there and lack of range of motion,” Boone said. “Most all of that has really come back. The fact that he was able to swing the bat a little bit off the tee today and take some ground balls continues to be an encouraging sign.”
Boone said that Aroldis Chapman was scheduled to throw to hitters, and other pitchers could take the mound on Sunday.
This is the second time this season that the Yankees have had a series postponed as a result of positive coronavirus tests on other clubs. Their July 27-30 series against the Phillies was pushed, with the club instead playing two games against the Orioles in Baltimore.
“It's the world we're living in. We understand that,” Boone said. “It certainly is a little frustrating, especially when we haven't been infected with it, but that's the nature of this. We knew what we signed up for and unfortunately it's happened to us now a couple times. That doesn't make it ideal, but we also understand that we have to deal with it.”