With the ALDS playoff matchup set and Game 1 on the horizon, two Yankees to have sat out for most of the past month appear to be working back into the mix.
Two days before the Yankees (103-59) open the best-of-five series against the Minnesota Twins (101-61) Friday at Yankee Stadium in New York, a pair of key bats are hopeful to be available.
Decimated by injuries throughout the regular season with an MLB-record 30 players to have landed on the injured lists in 2019, the Yankees look like they will catch a break for their opener vs. the Twins as they bring Gary Sanchez and Edwin Encarnacion back along.
Sanchez (groin) returned for the Yankees' three-game series against the Texas Rangers, playing in the opener last Friday and returning two days later, going 1 for 6 with four strikeouts.
Encarnacion (oblique), meanwhile, had initially been expected to be back for the Yankees for last Tuesday and Wednesday's two-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays but remained out since Sept. 12's injury.
After the Yankees held the designated hitter and first baseman out for precautionary reasons through the road trip to the Rangers, manager Aaron Boone felt better about Encarnacion's progress and ultimate availability.
"I do," Boone said Wednesday when asked if Encarnacion is swinging at 100 percent. "Smoked a couple balls out there, hit a homer and yesterday really cut loose with some. I think, in his mind, he swung aggressively at a couple of (pitches) where he swung and missed -- that's where you're going to notice (rust) probably. I think he got through that. So I think yesterday was a little confidence booster for him as far as availability to let it go and coming in today feeling like he's ready. So hopefully we get through today and make that decision."
LIVE STREAM: Aaron Boone speaks ahead of the ALDS https://t.co/37lCfbiNYa- Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) October 2, 2019
If he could make his own decision, Encarnacion would have provided a far more concrete answer than Boone.
"I feel great," Encarnacion said through Yankees Spanish interpreter and media relations coordinator Marlon Abreu, adding that he swung 100 percent and felt prepared to play Friday after his two simulated games earlier in the week. "I'm happy to be here. We have a competitive team. I'm looking forward to playoff time."
Encarnacion included that he no longer had any discomfort or limitations in his oblique.
"Whatever he needs me to do, I'm ready for," Encarnacion said of Boone.
Edwin Encarnacion says he's swinging at 100% pic.twitter.com/atfSuPEres- Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) October 2, 2019
Sanchez returned to the Yankees after a 15-day layoff and provided hardly any production, but he got his legs back under him.
"I felt very good," Sanchez said through Abreu. "Health is very important and felt great. ... Definitely (feel like the timing is coming back), seeing the ball better and looking forward to Friday and hoping the improvement continues and I feel like that on Friday."
Final decisions have yet to be made by Boone as he continues to map out his playoff lineup and rotation among the roster decisions, but the outlook seems promising for Encarnacion and Sanchez after they nearly saw their postseason availability threatened.
"We have a great team here," Sanchez said. "I really believe in all my teammates and I've said this before -- I believe we have a great team and we're ready to compete against anybody. That's how I feel."
"We're ready to compete here against anybody" - Gary Sanchez pic.twitter.com/dn6KdHGwlM- Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) October 2, 2019