Josh Donaldson was meant to get a needed respite from the boos Friday night when he was out of the lineup against the Rangers.
But by the end of the night, the jeers came anyway.
As Donaldson’s hitting struggles have mounted (his batting average had dropped to .127 with an 0-for-3 performance that included booting a ground ball at third base) he has become a singular target of ire from the fan base. And boos again filled the Stadium after he struck out as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning of a 4-2, 10-inning loss.
Playing Donaldson at all wasn’t in manager Aaron Boone’s plan. He even used Kyle Higashioka to pinch hit in the eighth inning. But Boone finally gave in and brought Donaldson off the bench for Billy McKinney in the 10th — which became a 1-2-3 final inning.
“He’s played a bunch in a row,” Boone said before the game. “Just felt like it was a good day to have him down.”
After Friday, Donaldson has just three hits in his last 42 plate appearances dating to June 8, prompting speculation over whether his $21 million salary could go the same way as Aaron Hicks’ deal.
The Yankees ate the $27.6 million they owed Hicks after the outfielder suffered similar derision from fans along with an extended hitting slump.
“You feel for anyone going through that,” Boone said. “But that’s the case because you know what guys put into it, you know how much they care. That’s not necessarily fun to go through. Everyone handles it a bit different.but it goes with playing here sometimes”
The singling out by fans of an underperforming, well-paid Yankees player has reached a particular high over the last year, with first Joey Gallo and then Hicks leaving in ignominy. Donaldson’s struggles are not all that new — his .682 OPS last season was a career-low — but the situation has gotten far worse in 2023.
“I don’t necessarily love it, but it’s part of the deal and you gotta be able to navigate these waters,” Boone said. “It’s one of the challenges. It’s why it’s hard to be a good player in this league, or one of the reasons.”
Willie Calhoun told The Post’s Andrew Crane that he was scheduled to receive a platelet-rich plasma injection Friday for his left quad strain.
After Calhoun, who was injured Wednesday night, had an MRI exam on Thursday, Boone said the strain was “between grade 1 and 2.” Calhoun said he does not have an exact timeline for his return, but is hoping to be back in 3-4 weeks.
Harrison Bader also came off the bench to pinch hit, flying out to center in the eighth inning before spelling Isiah Kiner-Falefa in center field for the rest of the night.
Nestor Cortes (left shoulder) is “probably a week away from getting on a mound,” Boone said, adding the left-hander started a throwing program a few days ago.