Boone hopes Sanchez can return before playoffs

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

TORONTO -- New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Friday he's "optimistic" both Edwin Encarnacion and Gary Sanchez will be able to return before the end of the season, one day after the sluggers were injured in separate games of a doubleheader victory over Detroit.

The news was clearer for New York's pitching staff. Right-hander Luis Severino, who hasn't pitched this season because of shoulder soreness, is expected to make his debut Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels, and left-hander Jordan Montgomery will return from elbow surgery to face Toronto on Sunday, possibly following an opening pitcher. Montgomery hasn't pitched in the majors since May 1, 2018.

Left-hander J.A. Happ had a cortisone injection in his troublesome left biceps on Friday and is expected to pitch against the Angels next week. Happ pitched 4 innings against the Tigers on Thursday before being replaced by Chad Green. Happ said afterward that he's been bothered by biceps tendinitis for his past few starts.

It's been an injury-plagued season for the American League East-leading Yankees, with 30 players making 38 trips to the injured list. That's the highest total in the major leagues in at least 15 seasons.

Boone acknowledged frustration with his team's poor health, but said it doesn't change his outlook.

"The goal and the intentions and what we expect never changes," Boone said. "It hasn't changed all year and it hasn't changed now. But anytime we lose some of our dudes, I get frustrated."

Boone said Encarnacion suffered a mild internal oblique strain in the first game of New York's sweep at Detroit on Thursday, while Sanchez departed the second game because of a strained left groin.

Sanchez left in the fourth, one inning after he was thrown out in his first stolen base attempt of the season. He has been on the injured list three times in the past two seasons because of groin problems, including a 16-game absence in July and August.

Boone said Sanchez's latest strain is similar to his previous one but "in a slightly different spot."

"I'm hopeful we'll get him back by the end of the season," Boone said. "Obviously these next few days, how he responds and everything, will be a determining factor."

Encarnacion left in the seventh inning of the opener, four innings after hitting his 34th home run. The veteran missed 30 games with a broken right wrist after he was hit by pitch from Boston's Josh Smith on Aug. 3.

"We're optimistic that we can get him back at some point," Boone said.

Outfielder Aaron Judge was held out of the lineup Friday after playing all 18 innings Thursday and enduring a heavy collision with the outfield wall, though he pinch-hit in the 12th inning and struck out.

Severino said he expects to throw about 75 pitches against the Angels after a trio of minor league rehab outings, one at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and two playoff outings with Double-A Trenton.

"I'm very excited," Severino said. "It's been a long wait to be back, but I'm happy. I'm happy that I'm helping now and I'm going to be able to help my team."

Severino went 33-14 in 63 starts over the previous two seasons.

"This is a guy that, the last couple of years, obviously, has been in the Cy Young conversation," Boone said. "This is a guy that's a potential ace."

Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton played four innings in left field Friday in a simulated game at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Florida, and remains on track to rejoin the team during the coming homestand. Stanton has been limited to nine games this season because of injuries to his left biceps, shoulder, calf and right knee.

"He's been seeing a lot of pitching, a lot of at-bats," Boone said. "We continue to feel good about how he's responding to it all.

"We've been wanting to get G back and get him moving in the right direction and building momentum. We finally feel like, over the last several weeks, he's really started to do that, so we're excited about where he's [at] and his potential impact."