Sunday, August 23, 2020

Placing My Feelings on the Injured List...

The shortened season’s “bump in the road”…

I always found it difficult to face an off day after the Yankees are swept. The sting of the losses continue to resonate until the Yankees can snap the losing streak. The fact they were beaten in three consecutive games by their strongest AL East challenger, at home, and have had a weekend off for coronavirus avoidance makes it worse. I am not feeling good about the team at the moment but then again, it’s the normal roller coaster ride of a regular season. I guess the ebbs and flows are a little harder to handle when you know there are such few games compared to a normal season. Although outwardly I maintain a sense of calm and confidence, I am taking those highs and lows with reckless abandon on the inside, I can assure you.  

Photo Credit: The Simpsons/FOX

It is painfully obvious the Yankees need to figure out how to beat the Tampa Bay Rays if they plan to advance very far into October.  Unfortunately, a rash of injuries has developed which has deprived the Yankees of some of their best players…for at least the short term. It is ironic the injuries have continued despite the overhaul of the team’s physical conditioning unit last off-season. I know, this is not Eric Cressey’s fault. The modified season itself and the shortened second training camp hold much of the blame. I get it but I had optimistically hoped the Yankees could stay healthy this year with the new crew to maximize their fullest potential. Nope, it remains ‘Next Man Up’ and we continue to hold faith and trust for GM Brian Cashman and his team to deliver the next Gio Urshela. For the record, I do believe they will.

The first outsider, now part of the organization, to get a chance to return to the Major Leagues is former Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jordy Mercer. Most recently, the 33-year-old Oklahoman was playing for the Detroit Tigers but opted to become a free agent earlier this month when he refused an outright assignment to the Tigers’ alternate training site after clearing waivers. The one-time starting shortstop for the Pirates, a career .257/.315/.387 hitter, will get a chance help at second base, if the Yankees make room for him on the active roster, with the injuries to D.J. LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres. His glove has been scary at short but hopefully it plays better at second (at least it has over the small sample size in his Pirates-Tigers career).  

Photo Credit: Elsa, Getty Images

Mercer only played in three games for Detroit this year and doesn’t offer much upside but maybe he can help ‘hold the door’ while the other healthy players deliver the winning results. I’ve seen a few people say the Yankees should sign former Red Sox infielder Brock Holt, recently cut loose by the Milwaukee Brewers, but I think Mercer is the better player. It’s not like the Yankees are going to find high quality free agents on the open market at this time of year. It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do in the next week as we approach the trading deadline which is just a week from Monday.  

Speaking of trades, the Yankees did make one this week. After designating David Hale for assignment, they traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies to allow Hale to join their Yankees alumni association. With no intended knock against Hale, who has generally done a good job when asked, I was a little surprised the Yankees got anything for him. Addison Russ, a 25-year-old right-handed reliever is not exactly what you’d call a prospect but he has dominated the minor leagues with 200 strikeouts in nearly 153 career innings. I’ll be interested in seeing what the Yankees can do with Russ. Perhaps it is another gold nugget uncovered by Cashman. Then again, maybe he never sees the light of day at Yankee Stadium. I’ll hope for the former, but as the saying goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained” so, with that  being said, I am glad Russ is in the organization regardless of how this plays out. If he plays somewhere in the middle of my lofty unsubstantiated hopes for success and being a future DFA player, this trade will have turned out very, very well for the Yankees. Odds are we haven’t seen the last of Hale but at least he gave us something to work with in his latest departure.   

Photo Credit: Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos, via Getty Images

With thirty-five regular season games left to play, the Yankees will be without shortstop Gleyber Torres following his placement on the Injured List with Grade 1 strains of his left hamstring and quad. Manager Aaron Boone is on record saying Torres will be out in the “two to three week range” under their current thinking. My hope is the rest and recovery allows Torres to play more like the 2019 version of himself. At any rate, I’ll hold out optimism for his quick return to full health and when he does come back, he is accompanied by a very productive bat.  

The Yankees also lost James Paxton and Zack Britton to the Injured List. 

Regarding Paxton, I really thought it was the end as I expected an announcement he would need Tommy John surgery. Fortunately, and thankfully, I am not a doctor, and the diagnosis was just a strained left forearm (Grade 1 flexor strain). Yeah, the word “just” is a little ridiculous but it’s better than Stephen Strasburg’s fate. Paxton blames it on the shortened summer training, “I think it’s pretty simple. We didn’t get enough time going at a lower speed to kind of build up.” Regardless, I think Paxton’s days as a Yankee are numbered. I had previously thought it was unlikely the Yankees would re-sign him when he hits the open market after the season, but this year’s performance and the continuation of injuries is pretty much the nail in the coffin.  Oh well, it bodes well for the Clarke Schmidt 2021 campaign. After a couple of weeks rest, Paxton will get some time in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to rebuild his arm strength. Hopefully there’s enough time for him to make his mark on this season. He certainly has the talent if he can maintain his health after the most recent setback.  

As for Schmidt, we may get an early preview of the potential 2021 starter as soon as this week. I am ready for his time to start even if the Yankees aren’t quite ready to begin his service time clock. I’d really like to see Schmidt grow and develop as a Major League pitcher and there’s only one place to learn (clue: it’s not the alternate training site). The downside of a Schmidt move is the elimination of a seat holder on the current 40-man roster as a precursor to his elevation to active status on the Major League roster. While I’ve always liked Ben Heller, I know it is inevitable he’ll eventually get the tap on the shoulder that it’s time to go. I just hope it is for something of value and not just a trip down the DFA highway without a net. 

Britton feels he’ll be ready to go after 10 days following his trip to the Injured List for a strained left hamstring. Britton, the team’s closer for much of the season until the recent return of Aroldis Chapman, is such a huge part of the Yankees bullpen so we certainly need him back sooner than later but, as with any injuries, never too soon. I fully expect superior physical therapy management from Eric Cressey and his team. 

The Yankees also lost reliever Luis Avilan, a mild surprise this season, to the IL on Friday with Torres and Paxton. He was diagnosed with shoulder inflammation.

Of the current players already on the IL, there is strong optimism we’ll see Aaron Judge this week when the Yankees return to play. LeMahieu, already taking dry swings, should not be too far behind. It will be fantastic to get both of those guys back. I haven’t really heard any updates on Giancarlo Stanton but that’s what I’ve grown to expect. A mystery when he’ll be able to play and total pessimism of his ability to stay healthy when he is. As the current White House occupant would say, “it is what it is”.  Thankfully, it’s Hal Steinbrenner’s money and not mine.

Hopefully the Yankees are back soon. I am ready to put the recent slump aside and move back up the AL East standings. They’ll play two in Atlanta starting Tuesday night. The Mets, their planned opponent for the cancelled series this weekend, will come to Yankee Stadium (hopefully) next weekend. After the Braves and the Mets, a rematch with the Rays looms in the Bronx for their final three-game head-to-head match-up before the fun of October begins. Not trying to look too far ahead but anything less than taking at least two of three will be unacceptable. There’s a day off after the series, Thursday, September 3rd, and I want that to be a GOOD day. Make it happen, Pinstripers!

As always, Go Yankees!

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