What is Aaron Boone dreaming of? Many things, probably. But the one he talked about recently was beating reborn DJ LeMahieu in the middle of the batting order rather than his usual top spot.
“In a way,” Boone said, “I love and dream of DJ hitting in the middle of things.”
Since Boone is the guy with the final say on the Yankees’ roster, he’s in a position to make that happen. That’s why, including Tuesday night’s series opener against Baltimore in the Bronx, LeMahieu had reached No. 5 10 times and No. 1 only five times this season.
One of those five-time No. 1 came on Sunday, when the Yankees offense finally broke with a season-high in runs and hits (13) in a 10-2 win over Cleveland.
LeMahieu went 3 for 4 with a double, a two-run homer and three RBIs. He extended a hitting streak to 11 games and, for the season, is .333 batting with two home runs, seven RBIs and a .924 OPS.
“I feel good,” LeMahieu said after the game. “I feel good. I felt good all year. I think today I saw it well and I was making good swings and hopefully I can continue.
You probably won’t get much more from LeMahieu in terms of colorful quotes, good or bad.
He was a bland talker in 2019 and 2020, when he finished fourth and then third in AL MVP voting. He was the same in 2021, when he slipped to a .268 batting average per season after leading the majors in the shortened 2020 season at .364.
LeMahieu suffered a sports hernia last season, and you didn’t hear much about it until he had surgery in October.
Now he’s back, whether it’s first in the order or fifth, and whether he’s starting at first, second or third base, or designated hitter.
“I think he looks great,” Boone said. “The batting quality, the consistency of his bats, he looks like a DJ. He obviously gets his hits and gets on base, but usually, even when he lands a takedown, he’s on the barrel, which is him. He can shoot the ball. But I was really encouraged by the overall consistency of his at-bats, in-games and out-games. [In 2019-20], he was an MVP candidate. I think everyone understands what a great player he has been for us, especially in those two years.
The Yankees returned in 2022 with many of the same roster elements they had at the end of last season. So how are they supposed to improve? One way is for LeMahieu to once again become the guy who sprayed line drives all over the stadium when he was, for the most part, the Yankees’ leadoff hitter.
“I like it there,” Boone said. “But I feel like once we start attacking, I also like him in the middle of the line-up because I feel like he’s a guy who in the middle there- low, when we get our guys going at the pace that i expect, there can be a lot of traffic for him and if he hits the ball on the barrel as much as he is doing right now, it’s gonna be good for us.
“The way DJ is playing right now and how he’s been playing the majority of the time with us – he was our first guy a ton – but I feel like we have other guys who can fit in well in this location.”
Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks led the Yankees to No. 1 with five starts each on Tuesday. Anthony Rizzo started two games there.
DJ LeMahieu’s splits
How the versatile Yankee infielder compares when hitting first-and-fifth ahead of Tuesday’s game:
AVERAGE: .333 / .343
A B: 15 / 35
H: 5 / 12
RBI: 3 / 4
XBH: 2 / 3
OBP: .375 / .439
SLG: .600 / .486