Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu replacement options start with Tyler Wade

With 13 days until the scheduled Opening Day game at Washington, the Yankees don’t know if they will have All-Star second baseman DJ LeMahieu back from the injury list.

As with pitcher Luis Cessa, LeMahieu tested positive for COVID-19 before spring training 2.0 opened last week and has been quarantining at home. Until they each pass intake testing at Yankee Stadium, neither can begin working out.

Not having LeMahieu — a three-time All-Star who has won three Gold Gloves at second base and finished fourth in last year’s AL MVP voting after hitting .327 with 26 homers and 102 RBIs — would be a serious blow to the Yankees lineup. Regardless of who manager Aaron Boone plays at second, he won’t be LeMahieu in the field or at the plate.

Before Thursday night’s intrasquad game at Yankee Stadium, Boone was encouraged about where LeMahieu, who turns 32 Monday, was physically but addressed the possibility of needing a fill-in.

“DJ, as much as any player, I am going to feel good about where he is at — how much he takes care of himself and is ready to go. If anyone can handle being out at the start of camp, it may be DJ,’’ Boone said on a Zoom call. “He worked tirelessly during the quarantine down in Tampa. He was ready to go, and he doesn’t feel sick. It is not something that has wiped him out. I do feel good about the player being able to pick up once it is time for him to come back.’’

Yankees
DJ LeMahieu and Tyler Wade Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post, Robert Sabo

When that is, of course, is unknown. It’s not likely the Yankees would move Gleyber Torres from shortstop back to second after grooming him to be Didi Gregorius’ replacement at short, a position Torres played in the minor leagues and in 77 games (73 starts) a year ago when Gregorius was out.

Before LeMahieu tested positive, Tyler Wade figured to make the 30-man roster because he is able to play shortstop, second, third base, in the outfield and provide speed as a pinch runner. Now, the 25-year-old left-hand-hitting Wade could be the second baseman until LeMahieu returns.

“We have a lot of confidence in Tyler, especially how he will impact the game defensively there,’’ Boone said of Wade, who has played second in 59 big-league games but hasn’t hit (.197 in 109 games) in limited playing time.

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Boone didn’t stop with Wade, who would appear to be the frontrunner for LeMahieu’s spot.

“We have a lot of confidence in Thairo Estrada, Rosell Herrera obviously impressed us with the spring he had, and we brought in Matt Duffy, who could figure into that mix, an established big-league player,’’ Boone said.

Estrada is the only one of the three on the 40-man roster.

“We feel like we have options there if we did have to start the season without DJ,’’ Boone said.

The 29-year-old Duffy is intriguing because, when healthy, the right-hand-hitting infielder has been productive. However, outside of 2015 with the Giants (.295 BA) and 2018 as a Ray (.294), Duffy has been limited by injuries but still is a career .282 hitter with a .338 on-base percentage.

He played 91 games in 2016 and missed all of 2017 with an Achilles tendon problem. Last season he played 46 games for the Rays and signed a minor league deal with the Rangers in the offseason. He is in Yankees camp as a non-roster invitee. Of the 452 games Duffy has played in the majors, 377 of them have been at third and 18 (12 starts) at second.

As for Wade, he simply wants to play a lot more than he has since reaching the big leagues in 2017.

“I am preparing every day to play every day, whether it is short, second or wherever it is going to be,’’ Wade said before starting at short for the Yankees squad Thursday evening. “Unfortunately, DJ is not here, and there is a vacancy. I am getting my reps all over the infield and all over the outfield. Right now I am prepared to play every day and whatever they need me to do.’’

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