The Yankees had four days off between the end of the regular season and Game 1 of the ALDS and will have a total of four days off before facing the Astros or Rays in the ALCS. Asked whether his players like the time off or would rather avoid an elongated break, Boone said his viewpoint has changed from a year ago.
“That’s … something that I would always have had trepidation about, having a long layoff,’’ Aaron Boone said. “Maybe it’s just with this [year’s] team in particular, but it’s something that I totally embrace and I think benefits us. I know our guys will be ready. I know they prepare really hard behind the scenes to allow themselves to stay sharp.
“I look at this time of year, any time we get a couple extra days … I look at it as pretty much entirely a positive. I think our guys really benefit from it. I know come Saturday we’ll be ready to roll and feel like we have a really good chance of being sharp, as well.’’
Boone expected Didi Gregorius’ late-season funk to be something that could end at any moment and the manager’s faith was rewarded when the shortstop went 4-for-10 (.400) with a grand slam, six RBIs and two walks in the ALDS.
“I think he started to have a little bit better at-bats. … The thing I kind of maintain all the time with hitting, sometimes you go through a stretch where you struggle but you’re still a really good player, like Didi is, sometimes it takes an at-bat or a pitch within an at-bat that kind of gets you locked back in a little bit,’’ Boone said of Gregorius, who hit a third-inning grand slam in Game 2 to highlight a seven-run inning on the way to an 8-2 win. “I think we started to see obviously some better swings from Didi in [the ALDS].
“I do think the playoffs and The urgency of the playoffs, the stage and everything, I think that’s something that helps Didi. I think he enjoys playing in these games. It does bring out the best in him a little bit.’’
In 25 career postseason games, Gregorius is a .284 (25-for-88) with five homers and 22 RBIs. His three-run homer in the first inning of the 2017 wild-card game against the Twins erased a 3-0 deficit and propelled the Yankees to an 8-4 victory that kick-started a run to Game 7 of the ALCS.
“My biggest thing was, I knew he was healthy and confident, that he just needed to have some minor successes that kind of helped him get back to being who he is,’’ Boone said of Gregorius, who is eligible for free agency this coming offseason. “I was really happy to see him contribute the way he did offensively for us in [the ALDS].”
Jordan Montgomery threw a simulated game in Tampa on Wednesday and faced Clint Frazier and Mike Ford. Greg Bird was spotted in the outfield shagging balls.