NEW YORK -- Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius has nearly recovered from Tommy John surgery and could rejoin New York during a trip that starts Tuesday at Toronto.
Gregorius started playing May 20 at extended spring training, got in two games last week for Class A Tampa and is spending this week with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was 0 for 3 and played at shortstop in a seven-inning game against Rochester on Wednesday and was due to be the designated hitter in Thursday's game, which was washed out.
"We feel like he's pretty far along," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Thursday before the opener of a four-game series against Boston was rained out. "Now it's just a matter of getting him to the point where he's playing shortstop back-to-back times, nine innings. ... Once he does that, then there's a chance he could probably be joining us here pretty soon."
Gregorius hit .268 with a career-high 27 homers and 86 RBI last season. He tore his right ulnar collateral ligament while making a throw from left field after a ball bounced off Fenway Park's Green Monster during Game 2 of the AL Division Series at Boston, then had surgery Oct. 17.
New York was taking batting practice Thursday when the game was postponed just before 5 p.m. Boston then started BP before a downpour began.
This series will be shortened to three games, and the rainout was rescheduled as part of a day/night doubleheader on Aug. 3 that creates a four-game series in Boston's final scheduled trip to New York this season.
With the season just past the one-third point, the Yankees (36-19) have a half-game lead over second-place Tampa Bay. The defending champion Red Sox are 7 1/2 games behind New York at 29-27.
Boston started 3-8, recovering and peaking at 27-23. The Red Sox arrived after losing four of six against Houston and Cleveland.
"It's an important series," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.
Then an ESPN analyst, Cora was impressed with the Yankees' transformation in the summer of 2016, when they traded relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller along with outfielder Carlos Beltran and committed to a youth movement led by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.
"It was a different vibe right away. They actually played well in the second half -- or after July 31 of that season -- and after that they've been a force," Cora said. "When I wasn't coaching and I was watching games at home, my mom used to say `That's a fun group to watch.' And the energy here is a lot different than earlier."
Red Sox: RHP Hector Velazquez was placed on the 10-day IL because of a low back strain, and Boston selected the contract of RHP Mike Shawaryn from Triple-A Pawtucket. Velazquez has a 5.97 ERA in seven starts and six relief appearances and has given up runs in four of his past five times out of the bullpen -- including four runs in Wednesday's 14-9 loss to Cleveland when his arm angle changed while throwing some sliders. "He's been dealing with this probably the last three or four years, to be honest with you, but yesterday, that was different," Cora said. "He went from one slot to another one, and that was a red flag."
Yankees: OF Giancarlo Stanton, sidelined since March 31, hit in a batting cage, ran and threw Wednesday and Thursday at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Florida. Boone said he is close to resuming at-bats off pitchers. Stanton originally strained his left biceps, then his left shoulder. He played in one game for Class A Tampa on May 20, then was told to rest because of left calf tightness. ... RHP Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement), threw a bullpen for the second time in a four-day span. Boone said Betances probably will throw another bullpen, then a simulated game next week. Before this week, Betances had not thrown off a mound since March 17.
Yankees LHP J.A. Happ (4-3, 5.09) and Red Sox LHP Chris Sale (1-6, 4.19) were both pushed back a day to Friday. RHP Domingo German (9-1, 3.43) is scheduled to start Saturday for New York and be followed Sunday night by LHP CC Sabathia (3-1, 3.48), who missed a turn because of his painful right knee and is currently on the IL. Cora said he was still considering how to align his other starters. His original rotation had LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (5-3, 5.04) on Friday, followed by RHP Rick Porcello (4-4, 4.41) and LHP David Price (2-2, 2.83). Sabathia threw a bullpen session before the rain.
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