Another week and another crushing injury for the Yankees. Aaron Judge is still experiencing a shoulder and pectoral problem and the Yankees have been unable to figure out exactly what the problem is. An injury and an unclear diagnosis? The Yankees are operating in midseason form.
Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees as usual.
1. Remember when I wrote If You’re Not Worried About Aaron Judge Being Injured, You Should Be back on Feb. 18? Well, unfortunately I was right. After Aaron Boone said Judge would need to play in the last 10 or so spring training games beginning next weekend in order to be ready for the start of the season, Brian Cashman came out and said it’s unlikely Judge will be ready for Opening Day. Boone then tried to downplay his own general manager’s admission, but there’s no downplaying this timeline: Judge won’t be ready for Opening Day. As of now, the 10th-to-last spring training game is 10 days away, and Judge is still undergoing tests and the Yankees are still unsure what is wrong with his shoulder-turned-pectoral injury. If the team isn’t even able to diagnose the injury as of now and put in place a schedule to get him back on the field, how could Boone or anyone think within the next 10 days he’s going to be able to go from not playing at all to ready to play in games? The answer is he’s not.
2. Judge has played in 396 of 533 (74.3 percent) possible regular-season games since his 2016 debut. If you remove the 45 games missed from the freak wrist injury when he was hit by a pitch in 2018, he’s played in 396 of 488 (81.1 percent) possible regular-season games. Either way, whether you go off the 74.3 percent or the 81.1 percent, it’s not good. I go off the 81.1 percent since there wasn’t much Judge could do about getting hit by a pitch on the wrist (and he wasn’t the one who gave the all-time worst timetable for return from the injury). Judge hasn’t been able to stay healthy and somehow that needs to change.
3. Judge isn’t going to be on the Opening Day roster and neither is Giancarlo Stanton. With Aaron Hicks also out following Tommy John surgery, the Yankees’ entire expected starting outfield is injured. I can’t believe this is happening again. I really can’t. Last season the Yankees set the all-time single-season record for most players placed on the injured list and now they’re on pace to shatter their own record. The injury bug isn’t supposed to decimate the same team in back-to-back seasons. But here we are with still more than three weeks to go until Opening Day and the Yankees are without their starting left fielder, center fielder and right fielder, as well as their No. 2 and 3 starting pitchers. Five spots from the Yankees’ planned Opening Day 26-man roster are now available. That’s absurd.
4. The rotation spots vacated by Luis Severino and James Paxton will likely go to Jordan Montgomery, and unfortunately one of either Chad Bettis or Nick Tropeano, who I have written about in previous Spring Cleaning blogs. The outfield spots for Stanton, Hicks and Judge are much more intriguing and interesting because the Yankees need to build a completely new outfield. Brett Gardner is going to be the starting center fielder, and that leaves two spots to be filled by a combination of Mike Tauchman, who has had six productive weeks in his career, Miguel Andujar, who has never played a major-league game in the outfield, Clint Frazier, who the Yankees made it clear they don’t trust as an everyday player, and Tyler Wade, who is really an infielder. Not even a month ago, the Yankees had the best lineup, rotation and bullpen in the American League. Now they’re set to begin the season with J.A. Happ as their No. 3 starter and one or two players they never really wanted to have to use in the outfield as everyday players.
5. Jonathan Loaisiga isn’t going to be a traditional starting pitcher. He might be used an opener, but it’s obvious the Yankees aren’t going to have him in the rotation to fill one of the spots. He has only been used in the late innings in spring training, and if the Yankees were planning on him starting, he would be making routine starts and getting stretched out for the role. Given Loaisiga’s injury history, it seems like the best idea is to do what the Yankees are doing. Let him serve as anything from an opener to a multiple-innings reliever to a setup man and let him attack hitters with his high-velocity fastball and hopefully that keeps him healthy for an entire season.
6. Last week was the second time I gave my prediction for the Opening Day roster, but with Judge and Stanton both now out, here’s an updated version:
- Gary Sanchez
- Luke Voit
- DJ LeMahieu
- Gio Urshela
- Gleyber Torres
- Giancarlo Stanton
- Brett Gardner
- Mike Tauchman
- Miguel Andujar
- Clint Frazier
- Tyler Wade
- Mike Ford
- Kyle Higashioka
- Gerrit Cole
- Masahiro Tanaka
- J.A. Happ
- Jordan Montgomery
- Chad Bettis
- Aroldis Chapman
- Zack Britton
- Adam Ottavino
- Chad Green
- Tommy Kahnle
- Jonathan Loaisiga
- Luis Cessa
- Jonathan Holder
7. The other day, the Yankees’ spring training lineup featured about as close to an Opening Day lineup as I think they can construct right now without their entire outfield. In that lineup, Gardner was batting second. After seeing Gardner inexplicably bat third in the postseason last year and fail in that spot, I can’t believe he’s now going to bat second in the most important spot in the lineup in Judge’s absence. This isn’t about Gardner batting second to potentially get more at-bats in a spring training game. That lineup was created as a precursor to Opening Day, the same way all of those late-season lineups with him batting third in them last year led to him batting third in the postseason. Boone feels it’s necessary to stick a left-handed bat somewhere in the top of the order no matter how much inferior that left-handed bat is to all the right-handed bats, and right now Gardner is the only left-handed everyday bat. The fact that Boone posted that lineup after the Judge and Stanton news made me think that’s the way Boone or whoever creates the lineup is leaning for March 26. No one should ever be angry about a spring training lineup, but that wasn’t just any spring training lineup. I know what Boone is doing and I’m more than ready to lose it when the regular season begins.
8. Can we get the report from the Red Sox’ cheating investgation? With all these Yankees injuries, I need something to feel good about it and watching the Yankees’ rival lose draft picks and more is definitely something to feel good about. There’s no way it should be taking this long to discover how the Red Sox cheated and release the findings of it.
9. Maybe this will be the week the Yankees avoid an injury to an expected everyday player or rotation member? (Not counting the news on whatever is actually wrong with Judge.) Somehow the Yankees have to navigate three more weeks until the start of the season without anyone else getting hurt. Given how the last calendar year has gone, it feels impossible. There’s too many days and too much baseball between now and March 26.
10. The Yankees have an even easier opening schedule this season than they did last season. The problem is last season they were 6-9 after playing Baltimore twice, Detroit, Houston and the White Sox. This season they have Baltimore (3), Tampa Bay (3), Toronto (3) and Baltimore (4) to begin the season. The Rays will be tough, as always, especially in Tampa, but the Orioles are going to lose around 100 games again, and while the Blue Jays have a young, dangerous lineup, their pitching is awful. The Yankees don’t need to be at full strength to win the early-season series against the Orioles and Blue Jays, but those 10 games against the two teams are going to come off the schedule without the Yankees being at full strength, and there are a lot of “easy” wins in there that will be needed in helping the Yankees achieve home-field advantage in the postseason.
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