TAMPA, Fla. -- The playoff-bound New York Yankees are starting to get some of their injured stars back, with designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and catcher Gary Sanchez slated to return to the lineup during the team's last road trip of the regular season.
Encarnacion has been rehabbing an internal left oblique strain, which he suffered in the first game of a doubleheader at the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 12. The 36-year-old slugger told ESPN on Monday that he felt no pain and was hopeful he would be able to play in the second game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, but manager Aaron Boone stated Tuesday that he would take the cautious approach.
"I'm probably going to wait until Friday still," said Boone before the start of the two-game series at Tropicana Field. "Feel like he's probably ready and certainly ... he's kind of pushing to get in tomorrow. But with the off day Thursday and the ability to play three in a row possibly in Texas, my inclination is to wait until Friday. But we'll revisit it at least tonight after the game and may go through it again. But feel like he's pretty much ready to go."
Encarnacion missed almost the entire month of August due to a fractured right wrist, and Boone knows how important it would be to get the power slugger back on track as the Yankees chase the Houston Astros for the best record in the majors.
"Hopefully with three days of at-bats, if we can get 10 or 12 at-bats or whatever it is. And then even on the off days leading up to the postseason with some live pitching, he should be able to see some guys. So pretty comfortable and confident that he should be able to get into a pretty good rhythm," Boone added.
Sanchez, who worked out alongside Encarnacion at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa during Monday's off day, caught his first bullpens since suffering a strained left groin, also during the Detroit series. Boone also was optimistic Sanchez would be active during the Yankees' last regular-season series. The Bombers will face the Rangers in the final three games to be played at Globe Life Park.
"Hoping it will be this weekend at some point. A little bit behind Edwin, still a few more things for him to pass, but he's doing well, catching today, out hitting, running. Feel like he's close but don't have a definitive date yet," Boone said of Sanchez.
After putting on a show alongside Encarnacion during an early batting practice, hitting several home runs deep against the center-field catwalk at Tropicana Field, Sanchez caught bullpens for Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton on Tuesday afternoon, and he is scheduled for a full workout on Wednesday.
"Felt good. Everything I did, there's nothing bothering me," Sanchez said. "The plan is to get back before the season ends. Trainers have a plan, and we have to follow that. We'll see what happens. I might not be [back] here in Tampa, but the next series in Texas, that's the one I'm shooting for. I don't know which day, but that's the one I'm shooting for."
Outfielder Aaron Hicks, who has been sidelined since Aug. 4 with a flexor strain in his right elbow, also joined the Yankees during their pregame workouts at Tropicana Field. Hicks was able to ramp up his throws to 120 feet, and he feels confident that he'll be able to avoid surgery in the offseason. And while it would be unlikely, the outfielder refused to close the door on a possible October return should the Yankees make a deep playoff run.
"I feel like if I get enough at-bats and start to actually get into games, you never know what the possibility could be," Hicks said. "I'm going to get ready as if I am getting ready to hopefully play in the postseason, but it's kind of up to the team on that one."
Boone said Sunday he is not expecting Hicks to be a factor in the postseason.