Home News Josh Donaldson clears air with Yankees manager Aaron Boone

Josh Donaldson clears air with Yankees manager Aaron Boone

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NEW YORK — Out of the lineup for a third consecutive game, Josh Donaldson spun from his locker in the Yankees’ clubhouse, cap backwards and a bat in his hand. He ambled toward manager Aaron Boone’s office, sparking a lengthy conversation that spilled a half-hour longer than expected.

The result: Boone said that he and Donaldson are now “on the same page,” and that Donaldson will be “playing a lot” as the Bombers’ third baseman.

“I know the batting average since he’s come back has not been great, but scratch the surface to the underlying [numbers] and he’s hitting the ball hard,” Boone said. “I feel like there’s a ton in there for him offensively. He’s tremendous defensively at third; I don’t think anyone would argue with that. I just want to get him going, because I know he can be a key figure for us.”

Donaldson said after the Yankees’ 5-3 win over the Rangers that the chat with Boone was “just a lot of ball talk” and not about playing time.

“Obviously, I want to play, but that’s not why we were talking,” Donaldson said. “At the end of the day, I’m happy our team won. However I can help this team win ballgames or contribute in any way possible, that’s what I’m here for.”

Donaldson, 37, is slashing .125/.197/.406 with six homers and eight RBIs in 21 games this season. He is 6-for-48 (.125) since returning from a right hamstring strain on June 2 and has been booed at Yankee Stadium, including after striking out as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning of Friday night’s 4-2 loss to Texas.

“He’s a mentally tough guy. He’s got broad shoulders,” Boone said. “From my standpoint, I just wanted to give him a little blow here. The biggest thing with me was wrestling with getting him back in there [Sunday] ahead of an off-day going on the road. I wrestled with it for a few hours yesterday.”

In a small sample size, Boone’s reference to the underlying numbers has some credence. Donaldson has barreled seven of 35 batted balls (20 percent) since his return. He has a 51.4 percent hard-hit rate in June, which ranks 37th among all Major Leaguers with at least 50 plate appearances. Donaldson’s 4.5 degree launch angle, however, has kept him from doing more damage.

“The last few games that I did play, my at-bats probably weren’t as good as I’d want them to be,” Donaldson said. “But at the same time, I’m going out there, putting in the work.”

Acquired from the Twins in March 2022, Donaldson is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $21 million this season, with a $16 million club option for next year that includes an $8 million buyout.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman recently said that he needs a larger sample size to properly evaluate Donaldson’s place on the roster.

Cashman believes that Donaldson can improve upon the performance he showed last season, when he slashed .222/.308/.374 (95 OPS+) with 15 homers and 62 RBIs in 132 games.

“Prior to that, he’s always been an above-average offensive player,” Cashman said. “This year, he got out of the gates looking good. And then he got hurt and then he reaggravated his injury, so he’s been down for a long period of time. I’d like to get him some runway here where he can get some consistent at-bats and then get on a roll so we can be in a better position to judge.”

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