Josh Donaldson’s heroics on Wednesday night had some extra meaning, with a special fan watching from afar.
After hitting a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning to lift the Yankees to an 8-7 win over the Rays, Donaldson revealed in an on-field interview with YES Network that his Uncle Bill had recently suffered a heart attack. Donaldson looked into the camera and told his uncle that he loved him and was praying for him.
On Thursday, Donaldson’s uncle called the Yankees third baseman and told him he was watching the wild win.
“That was exciting to hear that he was able to watch,” Donaldson said.
“It seems like he’s turning a corner for the better. It’s a pretty tough situation when you’re dealing with that. But I know he’s been checking in on the games and gets some excitement from that, so it was nice to be able to do that and for him to be able to watch, going through a tough time, hope[fully] pick him up as well.”
The walk-off grand slam was the 10th in Yankees history and the third “ultimate” grand slam — a walk-off with the club trailing by three runs — joining Babe Ruth and Jason Giambi.
As expected, DJ LeMahieu returned to the starting lineup on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series against the Blue Jays. It was his first start since Saturday because of an inflamed right big toe, though he did pinch hit Wednesday night and singled on the first pitch.
LeMahieu took his regular spot atop the lineup and played second base.
“It lengthens [the lineup],” manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously you’re adding another impact player to the lineup and at the top and he’s done such a good job of getting on base this year.”
LeMahieu is expected to have to manage the toe issue the rest of the season, but he said Wednesday he was confident he could play through it.
“I would imagine there’ll be some days in here where we’ll be strategic with it,” Boone said. “But it’s something that’s a pain tolerance thing. We’ll have to be on top of that and have those frank and honest conversations.”
Giancarlo Stanton (Achilles tendinitis) went through a fourth straight pregame workout on Thursday, with a rehab assignment imminent.
“If [the workout] goes well, it could start this weekend — possibly even [Friday],” Boone said.
Reliever Zack Britton (UCL surgery) is scheduled to throw another live bullpen session Saturday, after which he could throw live again or potentially begin a rehab assignment.
Boone was asked if Britton could close games upon his return to the Yankees.
“Could he? Sure,” Boone said. “I don’t even want to go there though. I don’t want to put that on Zack. My biggest thing with him right now and message to him is — it’s gone really well for him. … If he gets back to us to that point where he’s contributing, great. If it’s in that highest of leverage role, great. But for me, this is about, I want Zack to get back and healthy and all the way.”