A Yankees roster that steamrolled past the Twins in the ALDS could have a different look when Game 1 of the ALCS starts Saturday against the winner of the Rays-Astros’ Game 5 of the ALDS on Thursday night.
Aaron Hicks and CC Sabathia, who weren’t active for the three-game sweep of the Twins, are being considered for the ALCS roster that has to be submitted by 10 a.m. site time Saturday.
Hicks hasn’t played a big league game since Aug. 3 due to a flexor tendon problem in the right (throwing) elbow. Sabathia didn’t bounce back from a late-season bullpen outing and missed the ALDS with a left shoulder issue.
However, Hicks has been encouraged by recent workouts in Tampa and said Tuesday believes he can be ready for the ALCS. According to Aaron Boone, Sabathia was impressive in Wednesday’s throwing session at Yankee Stadium.
“He is very much a consideration. He’s here [Wednesday] actually. We were hoping to have some sim game stuff going on with a couple of our pitchers and Aaron hitting [outside]. Because of the weather, all our work was done inside. He did a lot of hitting and whatnot,’’ Boone said on a conference call. “He’s good physically. Obviously hasn’t had the kind of reps or games that you’d like, but he has certainly put himself in a position to be considered.’’
As for Sabathia, Boone gushed over the 39-year-old’s mound session.
“I was really excited about how he looked. He was sharp. He was able to really finish his pitches. I think he’s feeling considerably better than he was this time last week certainly,’’ Boone said. “I would say he is now an option for us, as well, and somebody that we’re considering. We’ll see how he bounces back [Thursday] from his session [Wednesday]. But he’s very much in the conversation now.’’
Adding the switch-hitting Hicks and the lefty Sabathia to the 25-man roster means two members of the ALDS roster have to be deleted. Tyler Wade or Luke Voit, neither of which appeared in the ALDS, could be casualties if Hicks is healthy enough to play.
The Yankees’ best defensive alignment is with DJ LeMahieu at first base. However, leaving Voit off the ALCS roster means that if LeMahieu has to move to second or third the Yankees would be left with DH Edwin Encarnacion to play first base.
Since Hicks hasn’t played in more than two months and just 59 games during the regular season it’s not a lock he is activated.
“Absolutely there’s trepidation. That’s part of the decision. But you could also see him filling a number of roles. I mean, when he’s healthy, he’s a really good player and a really important player for us, an impact player,’’ Boone said. “I could see him anything from being in the lineup on a given game. I could see him being on our bench. I could also see us not ready to make that move yet because of not being fully worked back up. Those are things we’ll try to evaluate as best we can the next couple of days, try and make the best decision for us moving forward.’’
A big part of activating Sabathia will be how his shoulder recovers from Wednesday’s activity.
“I think there is a couple different roles he could fill. Multi-inning might be a little aggressive, but a one-off where he’s facing a left-handed hitter, I could certainly see him in a lane where he’s facing three or four hitters, possibly an inning plus, something like that,’’ Boone said. “I think the biggest thing is trying to evaluate where he is. For example, [Thursday], seeing how he bounces back from a pretty aggressive bullpen where guys stood in against him and he was making all his pitches at full speed and everything. Do we think he can pitch in a game and legitimately bounce back and be an option the next day if he were to face a hitter or something like that?