Yankees News/Rumors: Who will be left to play on opening day?

William Parlee
New York Yankees, Luke Voit
Jul 20, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit (45) is attended to be manager Aaron Boone (17) and trainer Steve Donohue after being hit by a pitch against the Colorado Rockies during the fourth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees had an unprecedented number of injuries to players last year.  To be exact, 39 injuries to 30 different players.  Despite that, the Yankees won 103 games using second-string players and players from the farm system.  As this spring training season started, the Yankee fans knew that Aaron Hicks, the centerfielder would be out most likely for the first half of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.  No big deal because the Yankees re-signed veteran Brett Gardner, who has proved he can handle the position with ease.  Then we were told that pitcher James Paxton had been suffering from back problems dating back to the last games of the postseason.

Yankee fans were told that Paxton would have back surgery and would be out a projected half of the season.  Later reports indicated he might return much sooner than that, and might miss only two months. Then suddenly we were told that there is a problem with Luis Severino.  Severino lost all but two weeks of last season due to injuries.  Almost faster than we could imagine the shock set in that Severino would require Tommy John surgery and would be out for at least the whole year.  Yankee fans started to say, “here we go again,” referring to the fear that we would be dealing with another season of injuries.

Then just over a week after spring training started, we found out that Yankee star Aaron Judge had not taken batting practice with the team due to discomfort in his shoulder.  After at least a dozen tests, a diagnosis could not be determined.  While this was going on, we learned that our other superstar Giancarlo Stanton had suffered a grade one calf strain and would be sidelined from spring training play while it healed.  Finally, the Yankees came up with a diagnosis for what was ailing Aaron Judge, a fractured rib, that he may have suffered diving for a catch last September.

The Yankee approach to the diagnosis, because it appeared to be healing, was to shut Judge down for two weeks and re-evaluate him then.  Boone did not rule out that surgery to solve the problem was not off the table.  If the problem does not resolve itself, the next step may very well be surgery to remove the rib that has been bothering him for at least six months.  It is hard to understand why the Yankees feel two weeks of rest will solve something that the last six months haven’t solved.   While Manager Aaron Boone has taken a rosy approach in his comments about all these players, it seems the worst that could be imagined has taken place in each case.

In the last few days, Boone has changed his tune somewhat and has had to admit that there is no timeline to when Judge may return to conditioning and practice, nevermind when he might return for the regular season.  Just yesterday, we found out that Gary Sanchez would not be in yesterday’s game against the Pirates due to him suffering from back pain.  When questioned further, Boone stated that he is not concerned; it is probably just “wear and tear.”  Wear and tear, this early in the season for a player that is known for his number of injuries?  That certainly doesn’t read well.  Sanchez has had five significant injuries in the last three years.  Sanchez has not played in more than 122 games in his major league career.

In response to a Bryan Hock of MLB.com’s question about Sanchez, the rosy Aaron Boone responded:

“His back was a little sore this morning, so we’ll just back off of him today. I’m not that concerned about it. I think it’s kind of normal wear and tear, first back-to-backs kind of thing. I don’t think it’ll be much of an issue.”

As spring training is now almost half over, the hope that this season would not be a return to all of the injuries of last year, the reality of it, is that we are already at that plateau, with injuries building up by the day.  Yankee fans are beginning to realize that the New York Yankees is a  team put together with injury-prone players that can’t stay off the IL.  Will the Yankees have anyone left to start on opening day in Baltimore’s Camden Yards?  Only time will tell, but sure looks like the Yankee organization will be dealing with another year of “the next man up” for the foreseeable future.

Some might say that while Aaron Boone may put forth a rosy outlook on all of this, some including this writer suggests we may be returning to another season filled with injuries to be a negative outlook.  But here are the facts:  last year we hade 39 injuries.  We now have six and were are not quite halfway through spring training.  Maybe prayer will help because those we depend upon to keep our players on the field don’t seem to be able to do it.