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Yankees activate Harrison Bader from IL, option Franchy Cordero

The Gold Glove-caliber center fielder will be back in the Yankees lineup early, beginning tonight.

Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

When Franchy Cordero was recalled from the minors just before last night’s game with Aaron Judge hitting the IL, there was a feeling of absolute melancholy over potentially having to see Cordero flail in the Yankees’ lineup again. He had looked completely lost since his hot first week, and no one was looking forward to his return, particularly with the MVP out.

As it turned out, Cordero’s return to the active roster didn’t even last 24 hours. The Yankees had a trick card up their sleeve, and it came in the form of Harrison Bader.

The Yankees’ center fielder had been out since March 8th with an oblique injury, and he’s been slowly working to get back into game form after missing the majority of camp. Following seven rehab games with Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees have decided that he’s ready. They officially activated him and demoted Cordero:

From the way that the Yankees were talking about Bader’s recovery, it sounded like they were more eyeing the upcoming weekend series at Tropicana Field for Bader’s return.

Instead though, they’re going to have Bader back in the lineup tonight, and if he can provide any semblance of a boost to a team stuck in a rut, it would be huge. Even if the bat takes a minute to get back into regular season form, Bader’s outstanding center field defense will instantly provide value. With Judge not even around to cover center in a pinch, the team had to rely on the withered husk of Aaron Hicks, and that wasn’t fixing anything.

Yankees fans were hesitant about Bader when he was acquired at the 2022 trade deadline in an odd trade with the Cardinals for steady starter Jordan Montgomery. It didn’t help that Bader was rehabbing from plantar fasciitis and that Monty shoved during his first month in St. Louis. But the Bronxville native Bader won his share of supporters with a red-hot postseason run shortly after his return in September. He went deep five times between the ALCS and ALDS, the latter of which was played against the very same Guardians ballclub that he’ll face tonight.

Bader isn’t normally the 1.262 OPS player that he was last October, so fans will have to calibrate any expectations for him. He did have a 114 OPS+ for the Cardinals from 2020-21 but dipped to an 86 OPS+ during his injury-interrupted 2022. His ceiling is higher than that though, and regardless, it will be nice to have a real MLB hitter back in the regular starting nine over the likes of Hicks, Cordero, and others who have led the Yankees’ offense to such a meek start in 2023.