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Harrison Bader closing in on return to Yankees: ‘don’t want to waste any time’

Harrison Bader is getting close to a return, even if his exact timetable remains unclear.

Friday marked the first day Bader was eligible to be activated off the injured list, and though the Yankees were not yet ready to make that move, the center fielder said he was “right around the corner” and did not believe he would need a rehab assignment before returning from his hamstring strain.

“I don’t want to waste any time,” Bader said Friday before the Yankees fell to the Red Sox, 3-2. “ If I feel good and I feel confident, I want to go out there and help this team win. I know when I get to that place, I’ll be in a good spot where I can help this team win, which is all that matters.

“I’m not helping anybody if I’m on a rehab assignment.”

Bader took pregame batting practice Friday and did some work in the outfield. Asked if he was running at full speed yet, Bader said, “I’m running pretty fast.”

Aaron Boone was also noncommittal on when Bader might be ready. Asked if the Subway Series (on Tuesday and Wednesday) could be in play, Bader said, “That would be awesome.”

Harrison Bader said he wants to join the Yankees right away and not go on a rehab assignment once his strained hamstring has healed.

“I would love to play tonight,” he said. “I don’t have a timetable. It’s really just about feeling good and getting around the corner [where] I can help this team win. I feel like I’m right there.”

In the meantime, Isiah Kiner-Falefa started in center field Friday for the sixth time in the last eight games.

Greg Allen had been another option in center before going on the IL last Saturday with a hip flexor strain, and he won’t be back any time soon, as Boone revealed Friday that he will be out six to eight weeks.

Pitching coach Matt Blake missed the game after his mother-in-law passed away. He is expected to return this weekend, but bullpen coach Mike Harkey took his spot in the dugout Friday night.

Boone did not have much of an update on Aaron Judge (right big toe sprain), other than that he was feeling “similar” Friday.

Judge received a PRP injection Tuesday and the Yankees were waiting for the swelling to go down in his toe before publicly revealing a timeline for his return.

Regardless of how long Judge might be out, Boone said that would not accelerate the Yankees’ plan to get Giancarlo Stanton back in the outfield.

When Stanton returned from the IL last week, Boone said the slugger would be strictly DH for at least the first two weeks while they built up his outfield work.

“He’s good at letting us know when he feels like that’s in play,” Boone said. “I certainly want it in play, but I also don’t want to rush it.”

Boone said there are no plans to try Gleyber Torres in left field to open up playing time for the Yankees’ crowded infield while Stanton is the regular DH. Torres sat Friday with DJ LeMahieu at second base and Josh Donaldson at third.

“I think he’s enough of an athlete to do it,” Boone said. “It’s not a bridge we’ve crossed.”