If you thought the Yankees could go two straight weeks without an injury, you’re a fool. Zack Britton will undergo an MRI on his elbow soreness and all Yankees fans now await word on the health of the team’s best reliever. The Yankees still have to three-plus weeks until Opening Day and that’s a lot of games and innings and batting practices and bullpen sessions for things to go wrong.
Brian Cashman recently spoke about the state of the Yankees and the health of his new-look rotation at the halfway point of spring training, and when Cashman speaks I listen since he’s the most important voice in the organization.
On the health of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon.
“Still kicking. It’s early. Everybody is getting their work in, and so far so good is all I can say.”
Cashman’s joke was a good joke, but it was also the truth. Still kicking in early March is a good sign for them. Still kicking after pitching in spring training games and simulated games is a good sign for them. Cashman is also right when he says “It’s early” because it is. The Yankees still have a little more than three weeks to leave Florida in one piece and not suffer any injuries to the expected Opening Day roster. As Cashman said, “So far, so good.”
On the rehab of Luis Severino.
“I’m sorry I don’t want to give the wrong information. I know it’s going really well. I don’t want to give you the wrong information.
You could hear in Cashman’s voice that he knows how many times he and his manager and the organization have looked foolish over the last three seasons by giving incorrect injury timetables that he wasn’t about to venture down that road when it comes to Luis Severino. Especially since it was Severino who Cashman admitted wasn’t thoroughly checked out before being allowed to throw following a spring training injury back in 2019. Everything does seem to be going well with Severino and he seems to be on track for the mid-summer return, which was anticipated when Cashman said he would undergo Tommy John surgery a little more than a year ago.
On trading Adam Ottavino.
“I remember when I had to talk to Otto on the phone and give him the surprise news that not only were you traded, or being traded, but you’re going to our arch-rival. As you all know, were completely right-handed lineup for the most part and we play, obviously, Boston within our division more times than you want so it’s going to create great lanes for him.”
Cashman didn’t want to trade Ottavino. I know he didn’t. He was forced to by the mandate from ownership to get below the imaginary salary cap and not spend a single penny over the luxury-tax threshold. Ottavino ending up in Boston means the Red Sox were the Yankees’ only option.
Cashman laid out my biggest fear: Ottavino dominating the Yankees’ right-handed in the late innings of close games. The Yankees and Red Sox play 19 times, which means there will be plenty of opportunities for Ottavino to come in to face DJ LeMahieu or Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton or Luke Voit or Gary Sanchez or Gleyber Torres or Clint Frazier or Gio Urshela. Thankfully, the Yankees have Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner to combat left-handed pitching!
On the depth of the bullpen.
“I think we have a very strong bullpen on paper, but we have to wait and see how it plays out. And if it’s not, we’ll have to make adjustments along the way like any team fighting for something has to do.”
Well, so much for that “very strong bullpen on paper” after the news that Britton was sent for an MRI due to elbow soreness. Britton is 33 and knows when something doesn’t feel right, and for him to need an MRI, something is clearly not right. Even if the result of the MRI is to rest, a shutdown will be implemented and Britton will eventually have to redo spring training. Very rarely does a pitcher undergo and MRI and nothing is found and they pick up where they left off. When it comes to the Yankees and the handling of injuries, you can forget about that option.
The bullpen might be strong, but just think about how strong the 2019 bullpen was supposed to be with Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Chad Green and Ottavino. Betances appeared in one game, Green had to be sent down in April and Chapman was as wild as ever before throwing the season on a hanging slider. The Yankees were fortunate Tommy Kahnle bounced back after a down 2018 and that Ottavino lived up to his $9 million salary. The 2021 bullpen isn’t as good as that bullpen was supposed to be, and it will be a lot worse if Britton’s soreness is something serious.
On re-signing Brett Gardner.
“We didn’t bring him back as a reward for what he’s done in the past. We brought him back because we think he can impact us in the present. We know he can and we know he will as long as he stays healthy he’s going to help us a lot.
I’m still very scared about Gardner continuing to wrongfully stunt Frazier’s growth. Boone claims Frazier is the team’s starting left fielder, but I don’t buy it. Boone didn’t start Frazier over Gardner in the playoffs, and what has changed since then? Nothing.
I would say maybe Boone was talked to by the front office during the offseason and instructed to play Frazier over Gardner, but then that would go against what Cashman said at his end-of-the-season press conference when he said:
“In terms of the lineup and in-game strategies, those are the manager’s. It always has been and as long as I’m the general manager, it never will be different.”
Or when he said:
“I know there’s that narrative about the manager being a puppet and none of that’s true. I’ve never ordered a manager to do anything specifically and Aaron would be able to testify to that as well as Joe Girardi and Joe Torre. They’ve never been directed at any time by me or our front office to do something they didn’t want to do.”
It’s going to be Boone’s call as to who plays left field and when. Frazier being in the starting lineup only against left-handed starting pitching isn’t enough. Gardner needs to be what he was re-signed to be: the fourth outfielder who plays infrequently.
On Derek Dietrich or Jay Bruce being on the Opening Day roster.
“They were brought in to get a legitimate shot to try and find a way to make this roster, and it’s a strong roster. But so far the early returns are strong. They look like they are going to make us have decisions. That’s what we want. We want to be in a position to make tough calls.”
There seems to be a general consensus that Mike Tauchman is going to make the Opening Day roster. I’m not sure why. The Yankees have outfielders in Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier and Brett Gardner. (We’ll leave Giancarlo Stanton out since Cashman said at his end-of-the-season press conference that Stanton is only a DH now.) Tyler Wade has also played all three outfield positions in his career. Keeping Tauchman would mean keeping yet another outfielder, and even though he’s left-handed, he isn’t very good. His entire career is being kept up by a six-week stretch in 2019. That shouldn’t be enough to have him on the team over Derek Dietrich, who is also left-handed hitter, but can play the infield in addition to the outfield, or Jay Bruce, who is also left-handed and has had the best career of three. I expect Tauchman to be on the Opening Day roster with the other two either no longer in the organization or at the alternate site.
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