Seven weeks after the Yankees made a surprising trade for him, Harrison Bader will finally don the pinstripes.
Bader is expected to make his Yankees debut on Tuesday in The Bronx against the Pirates, now that he is healthy enough to return from a nearly three-month stay on the injured list with plantar fasciitis.
The Yankees have raved about what Bader can bring defensively in center field, where he won a Gold Glove last year for the Cardinals. Entering Tuesday, Yankees center fielders this season had combined for a team-worst minus-seven Defensive Runs Saved, per FanGraphs, which is why the club was willing to give up left-hander Jordan Montgomery to address what they saw as an area of need.
Bader, who last suited up for a big-league game on June 26, played six rehab games with Double-A Somerset and went 6-for-21 with two doubles, one home run and one stolen base.
“I’m going to keep it super simple at the plate, keep it super simple in my preparation and go out there and just be an athlete,” Bader said before going out on his rehab assignment. “I’ve relied on myself this entire time to get back and I’ve relied on my athletic ability my entire career. I’m just going to go and fall back into that, fall back into my training and I’m surrounded by a great staff here. Just going to go out there and have some fun and be a winning player for this team.”
The arrival of Bader should shift Aaron Judge back to right field more regularly — which the Yankees had hoped to do more often in the second half of the season — while making left field a potential timeshare between Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera with Andrew Benintendi still on the IL.
The rookie Cabrera has only started one game in his professional career in left field, but the Yankees recently began getting him reps there in advance of Bader’s return. Hicks, meanwhile, swung a hot bat over the weekend in Milwaukee, going 5-for-12 with his first home run since July.
The Yankees could also potentially get Giancarlo Stanton a look in left field to open up flexibility at DH — which would become more of a necessity once DJ LeMahieu returns from the IL — but Stanton has not even played any right field since returning from the IL himself in late August.
RHP Ryan Weber, who was designated for assignment on Friday to make room for Aroldis Chapman’s activation off the IL, elected free agency in lieu of accepting an outright assignment to the minor leagues.