Judge came to the same realization about the Yankees’ depth as far back as spring training.
“On those road games, when we’d send two, three regulars and the rest would be Class-AAA guys, they’d end up scoring eight, nine runs against the other teams’ major league lineups,” he said. “That told me we had something special going on. Our minor leaguers would be starters on most other clubs. It’s been exciting to watch.”
The Yankees’ roster is about to be replenished, as well. Clint Frazier, who returned from the I.L. this week, will be followed by Hicks, who will rejoin the team on Monday after three more rehab games at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this weekend. Hicks, a switch-hitting center fielder, has battled lower back stiffness since March but is finally “feeling great” from both sides of the plate after a recent cortisone injection, he said.
Hicks will likely take over for Tauchman, and Stanton could soon join him in the outfield, as well. Stanton, recovering from a stubborn biceps and shoulder injury, has been hitting without pain in the underground cage at Yankee Stadium and may soon graduate to live batting practice. There is no timetable, however, for Judge, whose oblique strain has kept him from swinging a bat. He is focusing on cardio and core exercises for now.
Paxton was cautiously pleased about the condition of his left knee, which was stiff and inflamed in his last start against Minnesota on May 3. He said he thought the problem stemmed from the Yankee Stadium mound’s hard, sticky clay. He will be working on a softer surface, courtesy of the Yankees’ grounds crew, once he returns to the rotation.
Paxton said his knee was “much, much better” after nearly a week’s rest and may be ready to test it next week. With so many players out of action and in varying stages of recovery, it hasn’t been easy to gauge the Yankees’ ceiling — at least not yet. This weekend’s series in Tampa will be the first of many tests. According to the talk in the clubhouse, however, the audition is already over.
“We’ve shown that we can beat any team,” said Manager Aaron Boone, repeating the battle cry of his engine that could, even if it’s not so little.