Yankees Continue to Mishandle Injuries

The Yankees claim they have cleaned up to their approach to injuries, but nothing has changed

I expected the worst when Gleyber Torres was pulled during Sunday night’s game with a “core issue” and was taken to the hospital. How often does a trip to the hospital turn out to be nothing, especially for these Yankees? I began to envision Torres joining what’s once again an overcrowded injured list and started to think about him being lost for the rest of the regular season and postseason. I didn’t think his hospital visit would result in him being fine, allowing him to meet up with the team to travel to Baltimore, and I certainly didn’t think he would be well enough to be in the starting lineup the following night, less than 24 hours after he was in enough pain to go to the hospital.

When any Yankee experiences the most minor of injuries, it’s rare they’re back in the lineup the next day. When a Yankee has to be pulled from a game and taken to the hospital, it’s a little more than a jammed finger or stubbed toe, and I figured when it came to Torres, the Yankees would do their thing where they play shorthanded for three or four days rather than place a player on the 10-day injured list. But there Torres was on Monday night, batting fourth as the designated hitter.

Torres didn’t look like himself in the game, going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, after going 0-for-3 with a walk and strikeout the night before. Something looked off about his approach at the plate and his swings. The Yankees thought nothing of it, and on Tuesday, Torres was back in the lineup at the cleanup spot and back in the field at second base. After another two hitless at-bats with the second one ending with Torres flailing at a slider more than a foot off the plate, he was removed from the game. A few innings later, it was reported he had a “core issue”, the same issue which led to his removal from Sunday night’s game and a trip to the hospital.

How was the Yankees’ 22-year-old star middle infielder allowed to return to the lineup so quickly after what seemed at the time like a serious issue? It was at least serious enough that he went to the hospital. That question is rhetorical since there’s no answer. There’s no answer as to why the Yankees continue to screw up the diagnosis of injuries, rehab plan, timetables for return and every aspect of keeping their players healthy. The Yankees can continue to give their players extra and unneeded rest and unnecessary days off to try to keep them fresh and healthy, but it’s not working, and it’s never going to work if they can’t properly handle injuries once they happen.

“Similar sensation that he was having when he came out the other night,” Boone said of Torres after Tuesday’s game. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back here and it’s a day-to-day situation.”

How could the manager think and how could the organization even want Torres back with the team so quickly and on a day-to-day situation after experiencing the same “sensation” in his core in less than 48 hours?

The botched handling of Torres’s core injury is just the latest of a long line of botched injuries by the Yankees, going back a year ago when the team initially said Aaron Judge would be out for only three weeks with a wrist fracture. Nearly every Yankee has spent time on the injured list this season and nearly every injury has been mishandled in some regard.

Number 18, Didi Gregorius, Number 18
Back in Game 2 of the ALDS, Ian Kinsler hit a ball off the Green Monster that Andrew McCutchen played as if he had no basic knowledge or understanding of geometry. This forced Didi Gregorius to go into the outfield to retrieve the ball and throw it back in. It was on this throw that Gregorius’s elbow popped. But after his elbow popped, he played the last two-and-a-half innings of Game 2, all of Game 3 and all of Game 4. It wasn’t until Boone’s end-of-the-season press conference that the information that the team’s starting shortstop would miss part of next season to undergo Tommy John surgery was announced, and it wasn’t until Yankees public relations man Jason Zillo, not Boone, announced it.

Number 31, Aaron Hicks, Number 31
Aaron Hicks hurt his back on February 27 riding the team bus from Tampa to Lakeland for a spring training game. Two days later (March 1), during batting practice, the discomfort was still there, so he was shut down. Ten days later (March 11), he had a cortisone shot. Six days later (March 17), due to the still-existing pain, he had a second cortisone shot. Despite not having played in nearly three weeks and having two cortisone shots, Boone said “I think he physically probably will be ready [for Opening Day]. We don’t think it’s going to be a long time for Hicks.”

It was reported that Hicks would return for the second series and fourth game of the season on April 1 against the Tigers. He didn’t return and four days later (April 5), Boone said, “I believe he is starting baseball activities.” Boone also said he didn’t think Hicks would need six weeks, or the equivalent of full spring training to return.

It wasn’t until the 42nd game of the season on May 15 when Hicks finally returned to the lineup.

Number 40, Luis Severino, Number 40
On March 5, Luis Severino felt shoulder discomfort while warming up before a spring training start. An MRI showed inflammation in his rotator cuff, and Boone said he would be shut down for two weeks, and it would be “highly unlikely” he would be ready for Opening Day.

On April 8, Severino still didn’t feel well enough to throw off a mound, despite having increased his rehab to throwing from 130 feet, and he was sent to New York to be evaluated. Two days later (April 10), it was announced he had a Grade 2 lat strain which would shut him down for at least six weeks. Severino said he first experienced lat pain the same day as the rotator cuff pain, but the Yankees claimed to be unaware of it.

In June, Severino had progressed to nearly returning to throw off a mound, but he felt soreness near his injured lat. Severino was shut down for another week and an MRI revealed the injury had only 90 percent healed. Brian Cashman said, “Cleary, in hindsight, he should have never started his throwing program,” acknowledging Severino should have received an MRI prior to starting his throwing program to be sure the injury was completely healed.

Number 68, Dellin Betances, Number 68
Dellin Betances missed the beginning of spring training for the birth of his child. His decreased velocity in Tampa seemed like it was a result of not building his arm strength yet, but when the velocity failed to come back, an MRI on March 19 revealed a shoulder impingement. He would be shut down for a few days and begin a cycle of anti-inflammatories.

During a simulated game on April 12, Betances didn’t feel right and an MRI revealed a pre-existing bone spur. Betances received another cortisone shot the following day (April 13) and would be shut down for six to seven weeks. Cashman admitted the bone spur was discovered while giving Betances a physical in 2006, but that Betances was never made aware of the condition by the Yankees.

Number 41, Miguel Andujar, 41
Miguel Andujar injured his shoulder diving into third base in the third game of the season and it was announced he had a partial tear of his right labrum. Andujar and the Yankee determined the third baseman would be able to rehab the injury rather than undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.

Andujar returned to the lineup on May 4, just over a month after injuring his shoulder, but went 3-for-34 with no extra-base hits, and on May 13, he was placed back on the injured list. On May 15, it was announced Andujar would have surgery.

Number 27, Giancarlo Stanton, Number 27
Giancarlo Stanton went on the injured list on April 1 with a biceps strain. The biceps strain, which shut him down, became a shoulder strain, which shut him down, and that became a calf strain, which also shut him down.

Stanton finally returned on June 18 and played in five games with two personal off days during the five days for extra rest. In the sixth game of his return, his hand was stepped on while sliding and he was removed from the game in what seemed to be a hand injury. It was later announced Stanton was removed from the game due to a sprained right knee and Cashman said he wouldn’t return until August. He still hasn’t resumed baseball activities.

Number 24, Gary Sanchez, Number 24
Gary Sanchez complained of leg tightness after catching the game in Houston on April 8. Boone put him in the lineup as the designated hitter the following night. In the series finale, on a Wednesday, Sanchez wasn’t in the starting lineup. “With the off day [Thursday] and having a lot of guys down it is probably best to try and grab a couple days here while we can,” Boone said about sitting Sanchez. But in the eighth inning, Boone used Sanchez as a pinch hitter anyway. “Just trying to be proactive,” Boone said. “I want to make sure we are being smart about this and do all we can to keep him healthy. Making sure this doesn’t become an issue.”

Following the off day after the Astros series, the Yankees placed Sanchez on the injured list with a left calf strain.

Number 77, Clint Frazier, Number 77
On April 22, Clint Frazier slid awkwardly into second base on a pickoff attempt, rolling his ankle. Frazier grabbed his ankle and then hopped around near the base as Boone and Steve Donahue ran out of the dugout. Frazier was able to persuade Boone and Donahue to let him remain in the game, and after his ankle was tightly wrapped, he stayed in for the final innings, playing left field for the 12th, 13th and 14th innings.

Frazier wasn’t in the lineup the following day, and Boone said it was precautionary and the team didn’t believe it was “too serious”. The next day (April 24), Frazier was placed on the injured list after an MRI revealed a partial tear in his left ankle.

Number 45, Luke Voit, Number 45
Luke Voit came up injured after successfully busting his way to second for a hard-earned double to lead off the fifth inning in the first game in London on June 29. After the team’s return to New York, Voit was placed on the injured list with an abdominal strain on July 2. He returned to the lineup on July 13, but a couple weeks later, on July 31, he was back on the injured list with a sports hernia. Boone said, “He was having a hard time getting loose before the game.”

Voit could try to rehab the injury or elect for surgery, which would keep him out for six weeks, but with each day without an answer, a return in time for the postseason would become more bleak. “Over the next 24 hours, we’ll determine a course of action,” Boone said on July 31, the day of the injury. As of August 6, the decision for rehab or surgery was still undecided.

Hal Steinbrenner claimed the team began studying its injuries back in May.

“We’ll wait until all the data is in and at the end of the year, if we need to make changes in the procedures and the ways we do things, then we’re going to do that,” Steinbrenner said. “We’re looking at everything intensely, and any time we have a year like this, we’re going to do that.”

Cashman said he had conducted an investigation into the team’s handling of injuries this season.

“I’ve gone through the process and I’ll leave it at that,” Cashman said on June 30. “We always evaluate our process, and if there are problems and mistakes made by us, then they’re dealt with.”

If the team stated studying their injury problem in May, like Streinbrenner said, and Cashman had already conducted his injury investigation by the end of June, then why do injuries continue to be dealt with the same way?

It’s going to be hard enough to come out of the American League playoffs and advance to the World Series with the Yankees at full strength this October. It’s going to be nearly impossible to do so with an abundance of everyday players on the injured list because their injuries were improperly diagnosed or mishandled.


My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is available!