The start of the baseball season for the 2019 New York Yankees feels more like “The Walking Dead” and less MLB. Ten games played, three injuries, one of them potentially season-ending.
To make matters worse, the Bombers came into the season with five key players on the DL: Aaron Hicks (back stiffness), Dellin Betances (right shoulder inflammation), CC Sabathia (off-season knee/heart operations), Luis Severino (right shoulder soreness) and Didi Gregorius (Tommy John surgery).
Through 11 games, the Yankees have five wins and have lost three more starters in the process: Giancarlo Stanton, Troy Tulowitzki and a possible season-ender for Miguel Andújar. At this rate, the Yanks won’t even be able to field a team come May.
In my eye, the most critical injuries are those to Luis Severino, Miguel Andújar and Didi Gregorius.
Coming into the season the Yankees rotation consisted of Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, James Paxton, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia. Now with the injuries to Severino and Sabathia, the Yankees are looking at Domingo Germán, Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga to fill the void.
Germán is pitching lights out to start the season. We witnessed sprinkles of greatness from Germán in 2018, specifically when he no-hit the Baltimore Orioles through six innings on May 6, 2018. In 2019, Germán has picked up where he left off, tossing 5 innings of no-hit baseball against the Detroit Tigers on Monday, April 1. He backed up that performance by throwing six innings of two-hit, two-run baseball on April 7 at Baltimore. His record currently stands at 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA.
After the news that Severino will be out for at least 6 more weeks, Germán suddenly becomes a key part of the Yankees rotation and someone who they will need to rely on in the near future. Hopefully he can help keep the rotation afloat until the return of CC and Severino (fingers crossed).
This one came out of nowhere. In the final game of their opening series against Baltimore, Miguel Andújar suffered a partially torn labrum while diving back to third on a pick-off attempt by Orioles catcher Pedro Severino. The 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up’s season is now in major jeopardy.
This injury is especially sad considering his talent ceiling was one of the biggest reasons the Yanks didn’t pony up for Manny Machado.
Andújar’s replacement is nothing to sneeze at – long time Colorado Rockie, 2016 National League batting champion and three-time Gold Glove winner, DJ LeMahieu. In his 10 games in pinstripes so far, LeMahieu is leading the team in average (.361), runs (8) and hits (13). The second baseman by trade has also displayed exceptional defense at third in Andújar’s absence.
If Miggy is unable to return in 2019, we will be looking at a rotation of the versatile Tyler Wade, Gio Urshela and Troy Tulowitzki to fill the infield slot at third or second depending on what position LeMahieu plays that day. These guys will prove to be even more important pieces if starting shortstop Didi Gregorius is unable to return.
Just two months ago many Yankee fans, including myself, were confused as to why the team would go ahead and load up on top-level infielders after the seasons Gleyber Torres and Andújar had just put together. We knew Didi would be out to start the season after Tommy John surgery in October of 2018, but had Tulowitzki and LeMahieu in the case of another injury.
With Tulowitzki’s injury history and the blow to Andújar, Yankees fans everywhere should be thanking their lucky stars that General Manager Brian Cashman had the foresight to stock up on infield talent. A bench that once looked like a starting middle infield is now virtually uninhabited.
A return of Didi at any point would do wonders for this team. His defensive prowess at short is unmatched by any infielder on the roster and would also allow Tulowitzki and Wade to return to supporting roles. Cashman hopes Gregorius will be back “anywhere from June to August.”
With 162 games on the schedule, twice more than any other professional sport, baseball at its core is a game of attrition. The Yanks may be looking at an extremely depleted roster here in early April, however it’s the long-term health that fans should be more concerned about. I agree with the Yankees cautious approach to early injuries, but at the same time am very worried about the possibilities of a season without our starting third baseman, shortstop and number one pitcher.