Saturday, March 11, 2023

Yankees & the All-Star Injury List...


Carlos Rodón (Photo Credit: David J Phillip/AP)

Yankees player (insert name) will miss time…

In the famous words of Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman: What, Me Worry?

The Yankee injury news this week felt like a gut punch.

So much for my excitement to see Carlos Rodón make his home debut at Yankee Stadium in the regular season’s second game against his former teammates, the San Francisco Giants. GM Brian Cashman gave the somber news this week that Rodón will not be ready for Opening Day due to a brachioradialis strain in his multi-million dollar left arm.

He will not pitch for seven to ten days and will have to restart his season’s preparation, a process that will take at least six weeks. He should be ready by late April. As cold as it can be during the season’s first few weeks, Rodón gets a pass on the fickle New York weather. This could have been worse news. Rodón had Tommy John surgery in 2019, but fortunately, his ulnar collateral ligament is strong. The fear, of course, is that the forearm strain could lead to further problems down the road.

Rodón commented if this had occurred later in the season, he may have pitched through it. He dealt with the same type of strain last season with the Giants and did not miss any time. Hopefully, the Yankees dodged a bullet and Rodón will be a force in the starting rotation in the not-so-distant future. 

Sadly, Rodón is not the only player who will see time on the Aaron Hicks Honorary Injured List. The Yankees have also announced Harrison Bader will miss time with a left oblique strain. The injury occurred during Wednesday’s game while swinging during an at-bat.  Core injuries are concerning given how difficult it can be to avoid re-injury.  Hopefully, Bader will miss the least amount of time and will be patrolling center field before Rodón returns.

When Spring Training opened, the worst injury news was Nestor Cortes, Jr’s hamstring strain and how it might delay his season. Now he is looking like one of the healthier players on the team. We already knew that Frankie Montas will miss most of the season after shoulder surgery. Now comes word that the other player received in the dreadful deal with the Oakland A’s at last year’s trade deadline, Lou Trivino, will miss time with an elbow sprain. The Yankees truly gave up their top pitching prospect, plus a few others, for guys who will provide nothing for the Yankees in the foreseeable future. Trivino is not expected back until May, but if he needs surgery, it could be longer. 

The bullpen has taken a hit with the temporary loss of two valuable veterans. In addition to Trivino, Tommy Kahnle is out with biceps tendinitis. Late March had appeared to be the possible end of the line for the latest Yankees chapter of Albert Abreu, but the injuries increase the likelihood he will make the Opening Day Roster. Jimmy Cordero is probably a beneficiary as well. The season has not yet started, but we are already playing the latest ‘Next Man Up’ round. 

Trying to run down the list of injured Yankee players is kind of like trying to keep up with all the 2023 celebrity deaths.

While Kyle Higashioka is away at the World Baseball Classic, catching has suddenly become a rare commodity in camp. Ben Rortvedt had a procedure for an aneurysm in the posterior artery of his left shoulder, Austin Wells has a fractured rib, and Josh Breaux will miss a few weeks with an elbow injury. When the injuries occurred, some fans feared the potential signing of former Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, which is never going to happen. Instead, the Yankees pivoted to former Tampa Bay Rays catcher Nick Ciuffo. Ciuffo is a former first-round draft pick (chosen twenty-first overall by the Rays in the 2013 MLB Draft), but he has never developed into a Major League hitter. 

Nick Ciuffo (Photo Credit: Smiley N Pool/The Dallas Morning News)

I think Mike Axisa referred to Ciuffo as a ‘poor man’s Rob Brantly’. He is right (as usual). Ciuffo, only 28, has played for four other organizations since his release by the Rays in 2019. After making his Major League debut in 2018, Ciuffo has only played in 21 Major League games, batting .188/.259/.292 (.246 wOBA and 54 wRC+). Yet, with Higgy away and Rortvedt out, Ciuffo holds the valuable backup role behind Jose Trevino. At one point, I wanted the Yankees to trade Higgy and acquire a catcher like Sean Murphy before he was dealt to Atlanta. Now I cannot wait for Higgy to return. Ciuffo is only an injury away from seeing time in the Bronx. Yikes! Here is hoping that Yankees catching coach Tanner Swanson can work his magic with Ciuffo.

Last week, I was wondering if Domingo German or Clarke Schmidt would win the fifth spot in the starting rotation and now both will be in the rotation. It is an opportunity for Schmidt to prove he is the long-term answer. 

Opening Day is under three weeks away. Hopefully, the Yankees can keep the remaining healthy players on the field. Not sure I can take more injury news. 

Farewell Estevan Florial

Estevan Florial is a Yankee as of this post, but his time is coming to an end. While Spring stats are generally meaningless, Florial is a guy who needed to play like his career depended upon it because it does. Unfortunately, the former top prospect continues to hit like an outfielder’s version of Nick Ciuffo. In ten Spring games and twenty at-bats, Florial is hitting .150/.227/.200 (.427 OPS).  Sadly, those numbers point to his Yankees exit.

Whether it is a trade for a low-level prospect (if another team feels it can unlock Florial’s potential) or simply a release, Florial is not making the Opening Day Roster. Out of options, the Yankees have no room for him, and it is time to say goodbye. Rafael Ortega and Willie Calhoun are more capable options for the reserve outfielder role. 

I am disappointed with this one. I had high hopes for Florial. I once believed he was a long-term solution for center field, and then later, left field. In the end, he was not a solution at all. He has become the latest chapter of Jesus Montero. An overhyped Yankees prospect who fizzled out. 

For Florial’s sake, I hope he can find success at his next stop.

Anthony Volpe Time

With the disclaimer that I did not personally hear it, Michael Kay said on yesterday’s The Michael Kay Show that Anthony Volpe has a real shot to make the team.

I continue to believe he will open the season in Triple-A, but I certainly would not be disappointed if he heads north with the team later this month. My fear with Volpe is the hype and expectations. It seems if he is anything less than Derek Jeter, fans will be disappointed. I believe Volpe will be a good player in his own right, but I will never try to compare him to anybody other than to hope he is better than Isiah Kiner-Falefa. I will be happy if Volpe makes the team but conversely, I will not be disappointed if he gets sent down. When Volpe is ready, the Yankees will make room. I do firmly believe that Volpe will make his Major League debut in 2023 and I look forward to it. I want to see the player he can become. 

Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert/AP)

Both Volpe and Jasson Dominguez have been major revelations this Spring. Sure, they are the top prospects in the organization, but they have shown they belong. I wish Dominguez was closer to the Major Leagues as he would look beautiful in left field. Patience, Young Grasshopper. Volpe first, and then Dominguez. Hopefully, the two men can win a few World Series together. 

I have seen a few articles calling for Volpe to choose a lower number. I have no problem at all with 77. I think there is magic in double-Mickey Mantle. Maybe it did not work for a red-haired flameout, but Volpe can make the number work to his advantage. I would like to see him keep it over dropping down to say 11, 14, or 18. 

I guess we will soon find out about his number choice. Sooner than I expected if Michael Kay is right.

Passing of Jesús Alou

I was saddened to hear former Major Leaguer Jesús Alou has died at age 80. Alou was part of the famed Alou brothers, which include Felipe and Matty. Felipe is the father of Yankees third base coach Luis Rojas and a former Yankee (1971-1973). Felipe is also the father of former Major Leaguer Moises Alou, half-brother of Luis.  

Left to right, Jesús, Matty, and Felipe Alou (Photo Credit:

Jesús Alou had been a scout for the Boston Red Sox since 2002. During his fifteen-year career, he played for the Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics, New York Mets, and San Francisco Giants. He won two World Series championships as a bench performer for the A’s. 

The Alou name is baseball royalty. Even if he was working for the wrong organization, Jesús Maria Rojas Alou will be missed. My condolences to Luis Rojas and his family for their loss. 

As always, Go Yankees!