The Yankees have so many injuries right now it would be unbelievable for any other fan base aside from the Yankees. For the Yankees and their fans, it’s just business as usual. After setting the single-season record for most players placed on the injured list in 2019 (30 players across 39 IL stints), the Yankees haven’t slowed down when it comes to getting hurt in 2020.
Last season, I wrote the Off Day Dreaming blogs on every off day, but this season there aren’t many off days. There aren’t many games. So instead, I have decided to use the Off Day Dreaming format following each series. Yankees Thoughts will be posted after each series this season. There wasn’t a series this past weekend against the Mets, but after the weekend’s injury updates from the Yankees, I thought it would be good to sort through it all.
Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.
1. I think Luke Voit summed up the Yankees’ injury situation best when he said, “Obviously it’s a part of the game, but it’s crazy that it’s happening again.” He’s right, it is crazy that it’s happening again. It’s unbelievable is what it is. As of right now, the Yankees are missing four of their nine everyday position players (DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton), their second-best reliever (Zack Britton), a starting pitcher (James Paxton), their backup catcher (Kyle Higashioka) and Aaron Boone’s go-to reliever (Luis Avilan). This is in addition to having lost their No. 2 starter (Luis Severino) and an elite relief option (Tommy Kahnle) for the season. And this doesn’t include all of the injuries the team would have had to play the first half of the season with had the season started on time.
2. Paxton was placed on the injured list with an elbow issue suffered in his most recent start, in which he once again blew a lead to the Rays with a three-run inning. “At first when it happened, I was thinking, ‘This can’t be happening,’” Paxton said. “It just continued to get tighter and tighter. Considering the circumstances, I got very lucky with the injury.” How could Paxton think, “This can’t be happening?” Paxton gets hurt. That’s what he does. He has never made 30 starts in a season and has never pitched more than 160 1/3 innings in a season. Why? Because he gets hurt. He has been on the disablied list/injured list at least once in every season in his career. The Yankees knew who they were trading for and what they were getting when they dealt for the oft-injured left-hander, so none of this should come as a suprise to them. Last season — his first with the Yankees — he missed a month with a knee injury and then hurt his back in his final regular-season start, which eventually led to surgery in February. I’m shocked that Paxton is shocked that he is hurt again.
3. “It should be a short-term thing,” Paxton said. “My goal is to make it back for the end of the season. Hopefully get a few starts in before the postseason begins.” An elbow injury for a pitcher usually isn’t a “short-term thing” in a regular 162-game season, and this elbow injury has come in late August in a 60-game season with 35 games left. Paxton is shut down right now. Then he has to be built back up from basically nothing to the point where he can pitch in a game. I don’t see how it’s possible he could “get a few starts in” with the regular season ending on Sept. 27, which is 35 days from now. And even if he were to “get a few starts in,” who wants Paxton starting a postseason game? He wasn’t deserving of a postseason start before this injury, now he’s going to come back from the injury and suddenly be good enough to be a Top 3 starter on this team? It’s bullpen or nothing for Paxton when he comes back.
4. With Paxton out, there’s an open rotation spot. How should the Yankees handle that open spot? By giving it to Clarke Schmidt. How will the Yankees most likely handle that open spot? By using an opener. Why won’t the Yankees turn to Schmidt? I’ll allow Boone to explain. “[Schmidt] not being on the roster makes it not so simple,” Boone said. “But he’s certainly doing well down there and the reports we continue to get are strong.” Schmidt isn’t an option because he isn’t on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, and putting him on the roster would mean getting rid of someone else and it would also mean starting his service time. In the middle of a championship window, the Yankees aren’t going to put the best possible team together because they might have to cut a reliever undeserving of a 40-man spot and because they continue to operate as if they don’t have endless financial resources. I have a list of names who could be designated for assignment to make room for Schmidt. It’s not hard. Instead, 40 percent of the Yankees’ rotation will be J.A. Happ and an undetermined opener.
5. The good news is DJ LeMahieu is rehabbing this thumb injury. The bad news is what Boone said about LeMahieu’s injury. “I’m excited about how he’s progressed since the injury, because he was in some pretty good pain and had some pretty good swelling in there and lack of range of motion.” So according to Boone, LeMahieu had “some pretty good pain” and “some pretty good swelling” and also a “lack of range of motion,” yet he was evaluated at the plate after the injury and allowed to stay in the game, and evaluated again in the field and allowed to stay in the game. It’s good to know pain, swelling and lack of range of motion aren’t symptoms of someone who needs to removed from a game.
6. Torres is out for two to three weeks after suffering Grade 1 strains to his left quad and hamstring running out a ground ball. So essentially his entire left leg is in shambles from running 90 feet? That is so Yankees it hurts. “The players prepared really well during the quarantine; myself, I prepared really well,” Torres said. “I think injuries just happen.” Torres is right, injuries do just happen, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent them. Unfortunately, the team he plays for doesn’t realize this, and they don’t realize there is nothing that can be done to prevent them from happening even as they continue to records for amount of injured players.
7. “Giancarlo did some running outside on the field, probably about half-speed,” Boone said. “He continues to make really good improvements. Nothing imminent there, but he is making steady progress.” That’s good name for the eventual Stanton biography: Nothing Imminent There: The Giancarlo Stanton Story. I don’t think anyone thought there was anything imminent about a return for Stanton given everything that happened in 2019. Like I have said in all the Yankees Thoughts blogs since Stanton got hurt, I will believe he’s back when he’s standing in the batter’s box in an actual game, and I don’t think that will be happening this season with five weeks left.
8. Judge is expected back on Tuesday. That doesn’t mean he will be back, just that he’s expected back. If you have learned anything from timetables to return from Judge’s previous injuries, then you should know he usually doesn’t meet those timetables. “I felt like I could have been back out there after a couple of days,” Judge said on Sunday. “That’s why I was so adamant about not going on the IL to begin with. … I’m feeling great,” Judge said. “I could run around, I could jump, I could swing a bat, I could throw. Everything that you need to do for a baseball game, I could do.” If Judge was not injured like he claims he wasn’t and was able to play all along, then how did the Yankees know he was banged up in order to remove him from the most recent game he played in? He had just hit a home run and there was no visible injury with him, so clearly he said something to Boone or the training staff, which led to his removal and then to his being placed on the injured list. If Judge was as healthy as he says he was, he wouldn’t have said anything about possibly being injured.
9. Boone talked about the Yankees’ weekend series against the Mets being postponed. “It’s the world we’re living in. We understand that,” Boone said. “It certainly is a little frustrating, especially when we haven’t been infected with it, but that’s the nature of this. We knew what we signed up for and unfortunately it’s happened to us now a couple times. That doesn’t make it ideal, but we also understand that we have to deal with it.” Boone talks like someone who knows any game could be postponed, yet he manages like someone who thinks there are zero days off this season. The Yankees had Friday off. They had Saturday off. They had Sunday off. They are off today. They are off again on Thursday. Every single player and pitcher better be available for a two-game series in Atlanta, otherwise, what’s the point of anything? I’m sure Boone already has scheduled off days for Luke Voit and Gio Urshela this week that were mapped out in July, and he will follow through on them, even if 44 percent of his everyday lineup is out as of right now, and 33 percent of it will still be out if Judge does return on Tuesday.
10. The Yankees trail the Rays by one game in the division. That means the Yankees are currently the No. 4 seed in the AL’s eight-team playoff field, and that means they are currently in line to face the Indians the first round, best-of-3 series. The Rays would face the Orioles right now. The difference between being the 1-seed or the 4-seed is enormous. You can write it down that the Top 7 seeds in the AL will be the Yankees, Rays, Twins, Indians, White Sox, A’s and Astros in some order. The 8-seed will be the Orioles or Blue Jays or Tigers or Rangers or some other horrible team which wouldn’t sniff the postseason race in a 162-game season in a five-team format and might not even finish at .500 this season. Would you rather have the Yankees play a team from the first list of teams or the second list of teams in a best-of-3? If you follow the Yankees’ line of thinking that “just getting in the playoffs” is enough and it doesn’t matter what seed you are, remember that line of thinking when Shane Bieber strikes out 15 Yankees in Game 1 of the first round.
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