The question always seems to be 'when will everyone get back?', but what about 'who will they be replacing?' Injuries can create complicated roster crunches and the Yankees have seen a huge crunch in 2013. As players return from injury, roster spots need to be created to accomodate them. Sometimes it's a simple decision, but it can also create an adamant debate about prospects vs. veterans.
Ivan Nova will likely be the first Yankee off the disabled list. He was rehabbing a triceps injury when he also pulled something in his side, however he seems to be healthy and could be back by next week after the Yankees return home from their road trip. Even if he's ready to come back there's no guarantee he will get his rotation spot back. Nova has a 6.48 ERA in 16.2 innings, but has a 3.64 FIP; David Phelps has a 2.84 ERA and a 3.60 FIP in 25.1 innings as a starter this season. If Phelps can keep that sparkly ERA then Nova could end up returning out of the bullpen. Dellin Betances will be sent down without ever having to throw a pitch.
Kevin Youkilis, recovering from a spine injury, could be back with the team in two weeks and would likely unseat David Adams from his role as everyday third baseman and could be altogether sent down. Youkilis has been slow in his rehab and, with a spine injury, that's no surprise, but is he the better option at third base? Adams is currently hitting .308/.333/.615 in just 27 plate appearances and has provided better than expected defense. No matter who you end up going with at third base they're going to be an injury concern, so it looks like David Adams has another two weeks to impress the Yankees into keeping him on the roster in some capacity.
Joba Chamberlain is heading back down to Tampa to make two rehab appearances before he is re-evaluated. He pitched one inning in Scranton, but the Yankees did not like his arm strength enough to activate him just yet. Preston Claiborne would probably be the move when Joba is activated, but maybe the Yankees are taking more time to consider their options now that Claiborne has a 0.82 ERA and a 2.77 FIP in 11 innings. They could also option down Adam Warren and use Nova or Phelps as the primary longman too.
Eduardo Nunez has been surprisingly slow getting back from a strained rib cage injury. Unfortunately, he has not been very good while playing every day this year, so the team has not missed his .200/.290/.275 in 95 plate appearances. Perhaps the saddest thing of all is that he would still be an upgrade over the likes of Reid Brignac and maybe even Jayson Nix, since Nunez has been impressive with the glove. The likely move would be to DFA Brignac, but I doubt very much that we would even notice the difference.
It was originally thought that Andy Pettitte would only miss one go around in the rotation after suffering a strained trapezius muscle, but he is likely two weeks away still and may need a rehab start or two before he's ready to be reactivated. It turns out that he may end up missing just one start after all because the combination of off days and rainouts will allow the Yankees to skip Vidal Nuno in the rotation. In the end Pettitte might end up missing only one start and Nuno will be sent back down to wait for his next chance.
Mark Teixeira will start his rehab assignment on Tuesday and will be eligible to return from the DL by the end of the month. It is hopeful that he will be ready to return some time in June, but wrist injuries can be tricky. Jose Bautista attempted to come back from a similar injury too early, re-injured his wrist, and required season-ending surgery. While Lyle Overbay has done a great job filling in for Tex, there's no way of knowing how long he can keep it up. Unfortunately, Overbay is the likely cut to be made, since there is no room for him on the roster. If the Yankees are concerned about Tex's health going forward they could always keep him on the bench in place of someone like Ben Francisco and use him to platoon at first base and DH. They could even store Overbay away in Triple-A and dump Dan Johnson.
Longtime Rule 5 draftee Cesar Cabral is about a week into his 30-day rehab assignment, but needs to be activated by June 15 or he'll have to be put on waivers. The Yankees have spent so much time bringing him back from the fractured elbow he suffered in last year's spring training that it's unlikely they would let him go. The problem is that he has no obvious role with the big league team right now. Obviously, anything could change in a month, so if Boone Logan's elbow can't hold up or Joe Girardi decides he wants a second lefty out of the pen he could be useful. The problem is that there is no obvious reliever that needs replacing because everyone has been great so far.
Michael Pineda just threw his second to last simulated game in extended spring training before he starts his 30-day rehab assignment. He was said to be sitting at 93 mph, which is good to hear after he was initially around 89 mph. He will likely continue to build arm strength and hopefully up his velocity from there, however Brian Cashman has said he needs to be pitching better than one of the starters in the rotation to get a call up. If he's ready to go by the end of June and he looks like the Michael Pineda of old I doubt the Yankees hold him back on account of Ivan Nova or David Phelps.
Francisco Cervelli is still recovering from a broken hand, so he has not started rehabbing yet, though he could be due back sometime in July. Right now the Yankees only have one catcher with Chris Stewart resting a groin injury, but Austin Romine is currently hitting .129/.156/.194 in 33 plate appearances, so the hot hitting Cervelli can't come back soon enough. Romine will likely be optioned back down to Triple-A once he is ready to return.
Derek Jeter is still resting his re-broken ankle and hasn't done any baseball activity since being shut down in spring training. He'll be out until after the All-Star break, but we won't have a more accurate date until he starts rehabbing. The bigger question is, If he ever does return, where will he play? A near-40-year-old shortstop with range problems and a surgically repaired ankle does not sound like a good idea. In theory he would push Nunez into a reserve role, but he could end up with a lot more DH duty, especially against lefties if Travis Hafner is still healthy by then.
Alex Rodriguez is stepping up his rehab now that he's finally able to engage in baseball activities. He will still need a full spring training to get back into shape, so August may be the earliest the Yankees can hope for. It's impossible to predict who will still be on the team and performing by August, but A-Rod will likely spend most of his time DHing, which will complicate the roster just a bit when Jeter and maybe even Hafner will all need time there. One of the two rehabbing infielders will need to play the field at some point, so Kevin Youkilis could end up as a bench player.
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