Wade ready to fill in at 2B if DJ isn't ready

July 9th, 2020

NEW YORK -- The Yankees’ blueprint entering 2020 was to station DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres in the center of their infield, promising to create one of the American League’s most dynamic double-play combinations. With half of that tandem absent from Summer Camp, manager Aaron Boone is pondering alternate alignments for Opening Day.

With LeMahieu on the 10-day injured list after testing positive for COVID-19, infielder has emerged as a leading candidate to fill in at second base. LeMahieu was one of the Yanks’ most indispensable players in 2019, and Wade said he’d embrace the challenge of filling those big shoes.

“I’m preparing every day like I'm going to play every day, whether it's short, second, wherever it's going to be,” Wade said. “Unfortunately, DJ is not here, so there is a vacancy. I'm getting my reps all over the infield, all over the outfield, wherever they need me. I'm taking that same mindset into this year.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that the team has confidence in what the 25-year-old Wade offers to the roster, particularly his impressive speed and defensive versatility. Boone suggested that the team could entertain several options at second base if LeMahieu is not ready to return when the regular season begins in two weeks.

Boone mentioned the presence of infielder Thairo Estrada, who appeared in 35 games for New York last season, and noted that non-roster infielder Rosell Herrera was enjoying a stellar Spring Training when play halted in March. The Yankees also recently signed infielder Matt Duffy to a Minor League contract.

“We feel like we have options there and that we’ll be covered there in the event that if we did have to start the season without DJ,” Boone said.

Boone said that LeMahieu is not showing symptoms and has continued to self-quarantine away from the club. LeMahieu and right-hander Luis Cessa, who is also on the injured list and is said to be showing mild symptoms, will need to show two negative tests before they are permitted to join the club.

“If anyone could handle being out at the start of the camp, it may be DJ, because he worked tirelessly through the whole quarantine down in Tampa,” Boone said. “He was able to get reps, he was ready to go. The good thing is he doesn't feel sick, so it's not something that's wiped him out. I do feel good about [LeMahieu] being able to pick up in pretty short order once it is time for him to come back.”

In the meantime, Wade said that he believes the 60-game season and expanded rosters will provide him with an opportunity to impact more games. Since his home state of California had numerous restrictions, Wade remained at the Yankees’ spring complex through the shutdown, where he was able to work regularly with both LeMahieu and Torres.

“That was important to have him and Gleyber working together, as well as DJ,” said Carlos Mendoza, the Yankees’ bench coach. “These two kids have played together in the Minor Leagues as well, and I think that transition is not going to be as hard, as they’re used to each other playing up the middle.”

If Wade isn’t in the starting lineup, he owns the fastest sprint speed on the Yanks’ roster (29.1 feet/second), as measured by Statcast. That could factor into Boone’s late-game decision making, especially if the Yankees can station an automatic runner at second base under the new extra-inning rules.

“I'm not going to hit 50 homers, but I think especially in playoff baseball, baserunning is going to win you games,” Wade said. “Moving up 90 feet, I take huge pride in that. I feel like small ball is going to be a big facet in our game this year.”