DJ LeMahieu playing Opening Day is suddenly looking real

DJ LeMahieu played in his second exhibition game of spring training 2.0 on Monday night and will get plenty of at-bats Tuesday in simulated games against Yankee hurlers.

Is it enough for the second baseman to be ready for Thursday’s Opening Day in Washington after reporting late to the Yankees’ camp due to COVID-19?

“I think it is a possibility and if not Opening Day, the first couple of days,’’ LeMahieu said following a 2-2 tie with the Phillies at Yankee Stadium in which he played five innings in the field and went 0-for-3. “We will see. I will push for Opening Day. A lot of things go into the decision.’’

Aaron Boone wants to see how LeMahieu’s body bounces back Tuesday before committing the All-Star to being on the 30-man roster Thursday.

“I think it’s a possibility,’’ Boone said of LeMahieu being ready for Opening Day. “But we will see.’’

Major League rosters have to be submitted by noon Thursday, but listening to Boone gush about Mike Ford’s hitting ability it will be a shock if the left-handed hitting first baseman isn’t among the 30 Yankees on the Opening Day roster.

“I think some people miss how good of an offensive player he is,’’ Boone said of Ford, who tied Monday night’s game 2-2 with a ninth-inning homer. “He controls the zone and has power. I think he is a really good middle of the order major league hitter. That is how I view him, I think he is that good. For us it is a left-handed look, obviously. We are right-handed heavy. He is going to see some time because he is a lefty bat that can split up our righties a little bit.’’

When James Paxton mentioned Monday night that he wasn’t quite getting the extension he needed when facing hitters, the immediate reaction was to wonder whether it was something physical, considering that he had back surgery in February.

“I feel like I am having a hard time getting the full extension out front, but it is very close. I just need to put a little more time in and get that ironed out,’’ said Paxton, who is scheduled to start the Yankees’ second game of the regular season on Saturday in Washington against the Nationals.

Asked if something physical was the reason the 6-foot-4 lefty he wasn’t getting full extension, Paxton said it wasn’t.

“My body feels great, it’s just about finding that rhythm again and finding those patterns that I want to find on the mound,’’ said the 31-year-old Paxton, who has been on the injured list eight times since 2014. “My body feels really good, I feel like I am 100 percent.’’

With right-handed starter Masahiro Tanaka doubtful to pitch in the first five games of the season due to a concussion he suffered on July 4, the Yankees can’t afford an injury to another starter and certainly not their No. 2 guy behind ace Gerrit Cole.

Tanaka is scheduled to throw to live hitters on Tuesday for the first time since getting hit in the head by a Giancarlo Stanton liner on Independence Day.

“If that goes good he would have another simulated game or intrasquad game potentially five days out,’’ Boone said.

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As for Paxton, the manager was impressed.

“Five innings, 84 pitches and held his stuff well,’’ Boone said of Paxton, who faced Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar. “I think he is still expecting more because he expects a lot of himself but overall I thought he threw the ball really well.’’

With Paxton scheduled to face the Phillies at home on July 30, Boone didn’t want their hitters to get a look at the lefty in a game that didn’t count. Hence, the simulated game.

“He is one of those buys who is pretty comfortable doing it this way,’’ Boone said. “If we were playing them later it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. It is so early in the season and he was on board with it.’’

Deivi Garcia’s first taste of Yankee Stadium Monday night against the Phillies didn’t turn out great, but the 21-year-old right-hander said it will never escape his memory.

“Having the opportunity to pitch here at Yankee Stadium is definitely an experience that I will never forget,’’ Garcia said. “The level of competition here is what I like.’’

In 1 ²/₃ innings Garcia allowed two runs (one earned), four hits, walked one and committed a throwing error that led to the unearned run.

“I wanted to be more aggressive and tonight I struggled,’’ Garcia said. “That is the mindset I had and what I wanted to do. At the same time you learn from every outing.’’

Garcia was a long shot to be part of the 30-man roster and with no minor league season he will likely join the taxi squad and work out in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

The first and third exhibition games of spring training 2.0 weren’t easy for Gio Urshela. He got hit by a batted ball in the groin Saturday at Citi Field during batting practice and Monday night he appeared to foul a ball off his right hand in the second inning against Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez.

Andujar pinch-hit in the sixth inning and remained in the game at first base.

It is not a secret that Didi Gregorius was well liked by his Yankees teammates, but the river of Yankees who flowed toward the Phillies’ shortstop late Monday afternoon while he was on the field watching the Yankees take batting practice was impressive.

Fist bumps, handshakes and hugs were exchanged with the masked Gregorius by former teammates and Yankees staff members.

“Didi is one of those guys who brings a smile to your face,’’ said Aaron Boone, who was impressed the way Gregorius bounced back from a dismal start as Derek Jeter’s replacement. “That could have easily buried a lesser person or player. It almost made him better. He was an important part of some really good teams.’’

The Yankees will work out at the Stadium on Tuesday and travel Thursday to Washington where they will work out at Nationals Park.

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