TAMPA, Fla. — DJ LeMahieu took it slow. It was clear that as the New York Yankees’ third baseman performed light footwork drills in right field of an empty George M. Steinbrenner Field, his right foot was still in pain.

On Saturday, he fouled a ball off the outside of his foot, and it’d even hurt him to walk. On Thursday, he didn’t hit, run or take grounders. It was clear that LeMahieu wasn’t going to rush his recovery.

LeMahieu’s injury was a major consideration in our latest Yankees roster projection as spring training nears its end.

By Brendan Kuty and Chris Kirschner

Lineup

1. Aaron Judge, CF
2. Juan Soto, RF
3. Gleyber Torres, 2B
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH


5. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
6. Anthony Volpe, SS
7. Alex Verdugo, LF
8. Austin Wells, C
9. Oswaldo Cabrera, 3B

We’re projecting a 10-day injured list stint for LeMahieu to start the season. That’s based on the Yankees’ history of treating injuries conservatively and through watching and talking to the 35-year-old the past few days in camp. We might be wrong. Injuries are tricky. But it may be trending that way.

To fill LeMahieu’s spot, the Yankees likely would stick with what they have. That probably means third base goes to Cabrera on Opening Day — even if the Houston Astros put Framber Valdez on the mound and Cabrera traditionally doesn’t hit lefties well.

LeMahieu was also the Yankees’ projected leadoff man. Judge should take his place on Opening Day. He’s the Yankees’ best hitter, a lefty will be starting and Judge has hit .352 with a 1.177 OPS in 36 career leadoff appearances. Volpe and Torres each could also be leadoff candidates.

Lefty Nestor Cortes will start on Opening Day. Wells caught his final spring training start. That seems like a sign that Wells will be behind the plate for Cortes. The Yankees could also flip Cabrera and Wells, depending on if Cabrera, a switch-hitter, decides to hit righty or lefty vs. Valdez. Cabrera has experimented with hitting left-on-left some this spring. — Kuty


Bench

• Trent Grisham, CF
• Jose Trevino, C
• Kevin Smith, INF
• Oscar Gonzalez, OF

Grisham and Trevino are obvious locks to make the team out of spring. Grisham is the team’s fourth outfielder and Trevino will catch plenty alongside Wells. The last two spots on the bench are still a mystery.

If the Yankees think LeMahieu will be healthy within the 10 days he’d have to spend on the injured list, they could just keep him on the bench and play a man short. But if he’ll have to miss time, the Yankees will need an additional infielder. Smith and Jahmai Jones are the in-house non-roster candidates. Both have been light-hitting bats in their careers, but we’ll give the edge to Smith because of his ability to play shortstop and third base.

We’ll give the last spot on the bench to Gonzalez, who’s quietly had an excellent spring training for the Yankees. In 43 at-bats, Gonzalez has posted a .905 OPS. Gonzalez posted a paltry .551 OPS last season with the Cleveland Guardians before he was designated for assignment, but he was a quality player in 2022. Perhaps the Yankees have unlocked his bat this spring. If they have, he’d be a nice bench option to have. — Kirschner

Nestor Cortes will be the Yankees’ Opening Day starter. (Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)

Rotation

1. Nestor Cortes, LHP
2. Carlos Rodón, LHP
3. Marcus Stroman, RHP
4. Clarke Schmidt, RHP
5. (Will Warren, RHP)

Warren won’t make the Opening Day roster, but gets called up before the fifth game of the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The first four of the Yankees’ rotation is set. There was intrigue surrounding who would start Opening Day after Gerrit Cole went down with nerve inflammation. Boone decided it would be Cortes so that Stroman could stay on his regular schedule, which would see him pitch the third game against the Houston Astros and the home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

But who will start the fifth game of the season? Boone said it’s down to four candidates: Warren, Luis Gil, Luke Weaver and Cody Poteet.

Weaver threw 50 pitches on Wednesday. Poteet threw 30 pitches in relief on Monday. Warren and Gil will both pitch on Friday, with the latter getting the start. Judging solely off their pitch counts, Weaver and Poteet should effectively be eliminated from this competition.

Gil threw 56 pitches in his last outing and should be able to get up to at least 70 pitches in Friday’s start. Warren’s high this spring is 59 pitches.

Even though Gil has been electric this spring and he’s pitched better, he’s coming off Tommy John surgery and hasn’t pitched into the fifth inning since 2022. He will likely be on an innings limit this season, which wouldn’t bode well for him being a starter. The Yankees could use Gil similarly to how they used Michael King — for every inning he pitches, he gets that amount in days of rest. Gil’s stuff is too nasty to keep him in the minors.

The Yankees would have to create a 40-man spot for Warren, which shouldn’t be an issue with Oswald Peraza (shoulder) and Cole candidates to join the 60-day injured list. Also, if Warren doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, the Yankees could have an extra reliever for the Astros series. He can then get called up before his projected start against the Diamondbacks. — Kirschner

Bullpen


• Clay Holmes, RHP
• Jonathan Loáisiga, RHP
• Ian Hamilton, RHP
• Caleb Ferguson, LHP
• Victor Gonzalez, LHP
• Cody Poteet, RHP
• Luke Weaver, RHP
• Dennis Santana, RHP
• Nick Burdi, RHP

With Tommy Kahnle (shoulder) and Scott Effross (back) each to start the season on the injured list, the Yankees have a couple of bullpen spots to work with. We figure those positions will go to righties Dennis Santana and Nick Burdi, who have been impressive.

Burdi’s stuff has been filthy, and he’s struck out 12 batters in six innings. Santana has outpitched competitors Ron Marinaccio and Nick Ramirez, and Boone has gone out of his way multiple times to praise him. Santana is also out of minor-league options.

We figure that Weaver and Poteet will nab swingman roles. Hamilton and Loáisiga could be headed toward multi-inning duty. Holmes, Feruguson and Gonzalez each could work into later innings, along with Hamilton and Loáisiga. — Kuty