CLEVELAND — Didi Gregorius is back, giving the New York Yankees one of their major missing pieces.
Eight months after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Gregorius was activated from the injured list and is expected to start at shortstop Friday night as the AL East-leading Yankees open a three-game series against the Indians.
Gregorius got hurt making a throw in last year's Division Series against Boston and had surgery in October. He made a quicker-than-expected recovery and now rejoins a Yankees team that found a way to keep winning without him — and others.
The 29-year-old Gregorius batted .268 last season with a career-high 27 homers and 86 RBIs. Beyond his offensive stats, Gregorius plays Gold Glove-caliber defence and is New York's best all-around player. His return balances a lineup missing several key players, including injured sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
Manager Aaron Boone will ease Gregorius back by not playing him every day.
To make roster space for Gregorius, the Yankees optioned infielder Thairo Estrada to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and transferred shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the 60-day injured list.
Judge and Stanton continue to make progress while training at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Florida.
Stanton, who has been sidelined since March 31, homered to centre, lined a ball deep to left and walked twice in six plate appearances Friday in an extended spring training camp game. He originally strained his left biceps, then his left shoulder. He played in one game for Class A Tampa on May 20, but was told to rest because of left calf tightness.
After Friday's game, Stanton took batting practice with Judge, did defensive drills in left and right fields, and ran the bases.
Judge, who strained his left oblique muscle on April 20, resumed on-field batting practice Thursday.
Reliever Dellin Betances faced hitters this week for the first time in almost three months. He hasn't pitched in a game since March 17 because of a right shoulder impingement.