The Yankees seem set to cross their fingers and hope for the best with Corey Kluber.
After the right-hander visited several top doctors about his strained right shoulder, Kluber and the Yankees have decided to see if he can pitch despite his injury.
Diagnosed with a strained shoulder after leaving a start on May 25 following three innings, it has become apparent Kluber’s shoulder is showing the toll of having started in the majors for over a decade — including a five-year span in which he tossed more than 200 innings each season.
Aaron Boone said Kluber returned to the Yankees on Friday and played catch. He is experiencing no symptoms and, as long as that remains the case, he could soon begin a throwing program — rather than being shut down for four weeks, which was the original plan.
“He had a lot of eyes on this, and what it comes down to is it’s a guy with a lot of innings, a veteran pitcher,’’ Boone said of Kluber, who threw a no-hitter at Texas on May 19. “What is an acute injury, and what are chronic things? There’s a lot of wear and tear on his arm.”
On the bright side, Boone said Kluber’s “physical assessment has been good.”
Boone acknowledged the situation “sounds a little gray” due to the dueling plans, but if Kluber feels OK, he will continue to throw.
“I think it’s gonna come down to, can he get back to the point where he’s ready to pitch and be effective?” Boone said before the Yankees’ 5-2 loss to the Red Sox. “Pain tolerance is a part of that.”
The Yankees signed Kluber to a one-year, $11 million deal despite all those innings — and the fact he lasted just one inning a year ago before a different shoulder strain ended his season.
Kluber is still expected to be out at least eight weeks, but Boone said if his throwing program goes well and he remains asymptomatic, that could change.
“We’ll see where we are a week from now if he’s in a real throwing program,’’ Boone said of Kluber, who has a 3.04 ERA in 51 ¹/₃ innings this season.
If Luis Severino’s recovery from Tommy John surgery goes according to plan, he could be back in the rotation in July. His first rehab start is scheduled for Sunday in Tampa. Prior to Severino’s return, the Yankees could look to bring back Deivi Garcia, who gave up two runs — and walked three — in 5 ¹/₃ innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday.
Center field remains a disaster in the wake of Aaron Hicks’ season-ending wrist injury. Brett Gardner, who started there Friday, was hitless again in the Yankees’ loss. Gardner also made a bad play in the ninth, when he jogged to get Marwin Gonzalez’s hit to center, allowing Gonzalez to get to second.
Nestor Cortes bailed Gardner out by striking out Christian Vazquez and Christian Arroyo to get out of the inning.
“We believe in what [Gardner] can do,’’ Boone said. “I think [Gardner’s] had better swings of late.”
The Yankees are in the market for a center fielder, but in the meantime, they’ve turned to some unproductive options. Aaron Judge, who played there on Wednesday for the first time since 2018, said he can play there again if needed, and Boone indicated he might use Judge there Saturday.
“I feel great out there,’’ said Judge, who started in right field Friday.
The Yankees have been cautious with Judge because he has had to manage a lower-body injury for much of the first half of the season, but he seemed unconcerned that playing center might put him at greater risk of aggravating the injury.
The Yankees got some depth back in center on Friday, when Greg Allen was activated off the injured list with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Estevan Florial remains at SWB, as well.
Luke Voit did some work at first base before Friday’s game at Yankee Stadium as he comes back from a strained left oblique.
“He’s doing well,’’ said Boone, adding Voit also began taking dry swings.
“He’s trending, I would say, in a very good direction. The hope is he can start ramping up his swing and get some at-bats.”
DJ LeMahieu remained at the top of the lineup despite entering Friday in a 9-for-49 skid over his previous 13 games. During that stretch, LeMahieu had no extra-base hits and struck out 11 times to go along with five walks. He had two singles in four at-bats Friday, but also struck out twice.
He expressed his frustration Thursday by slamming his helmet down in the dugout repeatedly after being caught looking in a loss to Tampa Bay.
“I don’t worry about DJ,’’ Boone said.
Lucas Luetge hadn’t allowed an earned run in 14 straight appearances until he gave one up in the sixth.