New York Yankees: MLB to use more baseballs, Aaron Hicks on the mend, and more updates

William Parlee
New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks
Mar 15, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks (31) looks on from the dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball and the Players Union continue their negotiations today.  The New York Yankees may find themselves using a lot more baseballs even though it will be a dramatically shortened baseball season if the two sides can come together and get a deal done.

The 30 MLB team owners were presented with the MLB plan to start baseball in a COVID-19 environment about when our country celebrates the Independence Day holiday.  The owners swiftly approved the plan.  The plan was then presented to the MLBPA (players union). Still, the plan was dead on arrival because even before the plan was given to the union’s Executive Director Tony Clark he said that the revenue sharing plan in the document was a non-starter.

The two stumbling blocks for the players union is the revenue sharing that they see as a salary cap, which they have rejected since the 1970s.  The other is the health concerns of the players.  Some players are not that concerned, but some are, and some even have stated that the risk is too high to play at a reduced salary.  MLB has addressed those concerns with a 67-page health initiative detailing the steps that will be taken to keep players as safe as possible.  There have already been amendments to that; one of them is how many times a baseball can be touched before it is taken out of the game.

In previous years the only time a ball was taken out of the game is if it scraped the ground on a pitch or the umpire deemed it unplayable for some reason.  Under discussion now, that ball may only be touched by so many players until it will need to be removed.  For instance, if a hitter hits the ball to far left field, the left fielder touches it, it is then thrown to the cut off man in short left who throws it to the shortstop covering second base to try and get the runner at the bag. The pitcher, catcher, right fielder, cutoff man, and shortstop have touched the ball. That’s why it would be taken out of play.  If adopted, this will case MB to use a copious amount of baseballs.

Centerfielder Aaron Hicks well on the mend

The New York Yankees took a chance on Aaron Hicks when they got him from the Minnesota Twins.  The Twins were frustrated by Hick’s inability to stay on the field.  Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman was willing to take a chance on a player of Hick’s caliber.  He has now been with the Yankees for four seasons but has had numerous injuries.

2018 was Aaron’s best season with the Yankee’s, Hicks hit .248/.366/.467  with 27 home runs and 79 RBIs. He set career highs in runs scored (90), hits (119), extra-base hits (48), RBI and walks (90). He also set a career-high with a 4.9 WAR, which was third among all MLB center fielders. Last year he played in only 59 games, in a year that saw the Yankees suffer and an unprecedented number of injuries.

Last season Hicks started the season on the IL.  In July, he made a spectacular catch that saved the game for the Yankees against his former Minnesota Twins.  But two weeks later, he was back on the IL.  This time he had torn his ulnar collateral ligament.  He rehabbed and was able to play poorly in five games during the postseason.  But when the season was finished, he immediately underwent Tommy John surgery.

After his surgery, he was projected by General Manager Brian Cashman to miss as much as the first half of this season. Hicks has rehabbed well and is on track to play earlier than thought.

“He’s practicing dry swings. He’s got a throwing program. You know, I think obviously, him playing center field for the New York Yankees this summer is a legit option, as expected,” the Yankees GM said on a charity Zoom call. “So his time frame is currently going as planned. so we’re excited to get him back because I think he’s one of the better center fielders in the game, both offensively and defensively.”

The reason Hick’s is so crucial to the Yankees is that he is an excellent centerfielder with a cannon of an arm that allows his assisted in saving runs.  During the offseason, the New York Yankees signed Brett Gardner after he had a career year in 2019 as insurance if Hicks was to miss much of the season.  However, Hick’s is an upgrade to Gardner as he is a switch hitter, something that is most needed by the Yankees.  He hits for power from both sides of the plate.

Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, James Paxton, and Giancarlo Stanton injury updates

The Yankees certainly have had problems with injured players.  Last year they had 39 injuries to 30 different players.  That’s more than the roster. Those injuries were mitigated by having great depth as they brought more and more players up from the minor leagues.  This year in the shortened spring training, the Yankees didn’t fare much better.  James Paxton had back surgery during the offseason and was expected not to return until as late as the All-Star break.  But he has progressed much faster than expected and now may not miss any of the shortened season.

If there is a good side to the horrible coronavirus, is that it has benefited the New York Yankees by allowing injured players to heal so that the impact of their injuries will be lessened.  Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton are reportedly ready to play when and if the season starts.  Aaron Judge is another story.  His healing from a collapsed lung and rib fracture is taking much longer than initially thought.  Because of the uniqueness of the injury, he may not be ready to play until August if at all this season.

Apparently, when Judge dove for a catch late in September he fractured a rib.  He played with the pain in the postseason, and it continued to bother him in the offseason.  When he reported for spring training, he alerted doctors that he has shoulder pain.  That sympathetic pain turned out to be a fracture to the first rib after much delay and multiple MRIs.  Because so many muscles are attached to that rib, his rehab will be slow.   He has yet to take part in any on-field activities.  He is already at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa where he is rehabbing and undergoing treatment.