If Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hadn’t beaten DJ LeMahieu to the injured list, the second baseman would still be bummed about being unable to play due to a sprained left thumb.
That Judge and Stanton are also out makes dealing with the injury more difficult for the Yankees’ most complete hitter and another example of LeMahieu’s team-first attitude, which is a big hit in the clubhouse and the manager’s office.
LeMahieu was hitting over .400 when he suffered the injury Saturday while making an awkward swing. But when asked Wednesday before the Rays-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium about being frustrated because he was off to a splendid start, LeMahieu quickly shifted the focus elsewhere.
“It’s frustrating because Judgie and Big G are out,’’ LeMahieu said of the outfielders who are nursing calf and hamstring injuries, respectively. “Kind of bad timing but it is frustrating, I pride myself on being out there every day and ready to go. When you can’t it sucks.’’
Since LeMahieu joined the IL, the Yankees took two straight from the rancid Red Sox and dropped a 6-3 decision to the Rays on Tuesday night at the Stadium. In those three games, Aaron Boone started Tyler Wade at second in the first two again and Thairo Estrada at second in the third one and had Estrada at second Wednesday night.
LeMahieu had his thumb examined by three doctors and the prognosis was he would be shelved for two to three weeks.
“It’s pretty sore but a lot better, this is the third or fourth day now and a lot better,’’ LeMahieu said. “We haven’t talked about swings yet. I was moving around the field [Wednesday] just trying to do as much as I can. A couple of different doctors said two to three weeks. Obviously try to push that.’’
As a Rockie in 2018, LeMahieu was on the IL from May 14 to June 1 with a left thumb problem. Because a baseball player does everything but run with his hands, LeMahieu was asked if he had lingering problem two years ago.
“No, I was pretty much good to go. I expect kind of the same thing with this. The last time I did it there was a little fracture in there and this time it’s not,’’ LeMahieu said. “I am hoping to get back quicker and full go.’’
LeMahieu said getting an injection was discussed but not administered.
“There was pretty good improvement after the first couple of days,’’ LeMahieu said of avoiding a shot designed to reduce inflammation.
With Judge a possibility to come off the IL on Saturday, the first day he is eligible, the Yankees would be getting a big bat back. Like LeMahieu, Stanton isn’t close to returning.
Outside of being a very important part of the lineup — he hits leadoff and provides power and run production from the top spot — LeMahieu has a personal stake in playing well when he does return since he can become a free agent after the World Series.
The thumb injury in 2018 combined with an oblique problem that also landed him on the IL resulted in what for LeMahieu was a down year, since he batted .276 in 128 games. That impacted his free-agent market, and with the Rockies looking to spend big on Nolan Arenado, they saw LeMahieu accept a two-year deal for $24 million from the Yankees.
With a .327 average and career highs in homers (26) and RBIs (102) the first year turned out to be a steal for the Yankees, who watched LeMahieu finish fourth in the AL MVP voting.
With baseball facing colossal financial losses due to the COVID-19-impacted season, there is no telling what the 32-year-old LeMahieu will command on the market this time around.