The Yankees have an injury problem. No doubt. They also have a healthy problem.
Greg Bird embodies what has beset the Yankees in losing nine of their first 15 games. Injuries to Aaron Hicks and then Giancarlo Stanton provided not only a pathway for Bird to make the 25-man roster, but to play and reestablish his value. Instead, he performed poorly and on Tuesday became the 13th player the Yankees have sent to the injured list this year.
Twelve were still on the IL as the Yankees began a two-game set against the Red Sox. That is how their lineup included Gio Urshela and lefty-swinging Mike Tauchman against southpaw Chris Sale. It is how the Yanks had a better lineup not eligible to play: Gary Sanchez (C), Bird (1B), Troy Tulowitzki (2B), Didi Gregorius (SS), Miguel Andujar (3B), Jacoby Ellsbury (LF), Hicks (CF), Stanton (RF), Luis Severino (SP), Dellin Betances (RP).
The Yankees already had used the IL as many times this year as the Diamondbacks did all of last season. They have lost a lot of talent. But not all the talent.
The Yankees bullpen was supposed to be terrific, perhaps the best ever. If it were performing to its hype and pedigree, the Yankees would have been, say, 8-7 and the narrative would be about persevering through injuries rather than being undone by them. The same would be true if J.A. Happ and James Paxton had pitched to 4.00-ish ERAs through their first six combined starts.
The Yankees led in eight of their nine losses, but could not control a game, flubbing every aspect. For example, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder already had three games in which they combined to yield at least three runs and pretty much pitch the Yankees out of a shot at winning. This led to the Yanks losing their first three home series for the second time ever, and these series were against the dreadful Orioles, Tigers and White Sox — whose rosters were inferior to that of even the injury-depleted Yankees.
“We have a number of players throughout the roster struggling at the same time as important players are out with injuries,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “Boo-hoo, no one cares about it except our fans and us. Our job is to fight through it and get back on line as soon as possible.”
Aaron Boone has continued to maintain the Yankees are a very good team, just as Boston manager Alex Cora has said about his defending champs, who showed up in The Bronx at 6-11. The last time both teams reached at least nine losses in their first 15 games in the same season was 1972 (simultaneous 5-10 marks). Both rallied to finish with winning records. But the Tigers won the AL East. And this year the they-sure-look-real Rays had built the biggest lead (5 ¹/₂ games) through April 15 in the history of division play.
As Cashman cautioned, “Holes can be dug very difficult to get out of.”
To prevent being buried, the Yanks need those who are healthy to elevate because it is going to be a while until the cavalry arrives. CC Sabathia is the lone Yankee so far to come off the IL. Cashman said he does not consider a player close to a return until they are on an injury-rehab assignment and none of the dozen on the IL appear close to that. If anything, the Yanks’ initial read on a few players has worsened with new injuries or second looks as pain lingered. And Cashman said the improper reaction would be to try to rush someone to fix what is wrong.
“I am confident that slowly but surely, we are gonna get those guys that obviously we’re missing,” Boone said. “I think the point that I want to drive home is we’re capable of winning games despite being depleted right now. That expectation doesn’t change. Yeah, it’s a little bit harder when you’re missing obviously some big-time, impact players, but we’re still capable of going out and winning ball games. That is our sole focus right now.”
So Paxton and Happ — the starters in the two-game series against the Red Sox — were on the clock to perform better. Clint Frazier, like Bird a talented but oft-injured player, needs to seize the opportunity that Bird did not. Brett Gardner must show there is still consistent life in his bat and Luke Voit must demonstrate last year was no fluke. And the bullpen must become the lock-down force it was anticipated to be.
“We have no choice,” Cashman said. “You have to find a way to weather the storm with the personnel you have.”
Source: Read Full Article