Well, this certainly is not the start that the Yanks were hoping for, particularly in terms of team health. Greg Bird struggled at the plate to begin the season before taking some time off to nurse a sore ankle. The biggest blow came on Saturday when Gary Sanchez injured his arm on a vicious hack at the plate that was later diagnosed as a strained right bicep, which will sideline him for four weeks.
This is all on top of the Yanks losing one of their most valuable pieces in Didi Gregorius for at least the month of April.
If the Yanks are to tread water in the coming weeks while Sanchez and Gregorius recover (and while Bird hopefully returns to spring training form), they will need to seek help from some areas they would not originally expect major production from.
For starters, Joe Girardi has to be ecstatic with the way Ronald Torreyes performed in the opening road trip. Gregorius’ replacement drove in seven runs over the first six games, including the team’s first home run of the season in Tampa, and a huge triple to spark a comeback win on Sunday in Baltimore.
Torreyes has also looked great in the field, and has provided the Yanks with a huge boost that may have saved them from an incredibly disastrous start to the season. Last year showed how much a poor start to the year can hurt you, so the Yanks will need all the help they can get to keep the ship afloat while reinforcements make their way back to the lineup.
The Yankees have caught lightning in a bottle before, and they’ll likely have to do it again in the coming weeks. Torreyes is a good start, but they’ll need more help. The tricky part about guys like Torreyes is that you never know who is going to step up, because it usually is out of nowhere and completely unexpected.
Another candidate can come from the infield if you look at Torreyes’ partner on the left side of the infield. Chase Headley is off to a solid start at the plate, and it would be huge for Girardi and the Yanks if he could keep his offensive momentum going. Jacoby Ellsbury is another who comes to mind, given his strong start to the season. These guys will likely level off in the coming weeks, but if they can prolong their hot hitting for as long as possible, the team could avoid being in the cellar of the AL East by the time Gregorius and Sanchez return (which will hopefully be sooner than later).
The Yanks have done it before. The injury bug hurt them way worse in 2013, yet somehow stayed in the playoff hunt for much of the season. A lot of that was on a brilliant move by Brian Cashman to acquire former Yankee Alfonso Soriano at the trade deadline in exchange for fourth-round pick Corey Black.
Soriano went through a torrid five game stretch upon his return to New York, in which he collected 15 hits, helping the Yanks inch closer to a Wild Card spot. The plethora of injuries wound up being too much for the team to overcome, but Soriano certainly injected new life into the lineup when he came back from Chicago.
Back in 2000, the Yanks acquired David Justice and his .265 batting average in late June. A month into his Yankees’ tenure, his average was up to .291. His hitting was a huge boost for a veteran team that stumbled into the postseason before winning their third straight World Series.
Moving to the mound, I’m sure we all remember the 2005 season and the surprising impact of Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small. That was probably the team’s biggest experience of catching lightning in a bottle.
The major issue for the Yanks is that we are in April, not June or July. Trades will be hard to come by to say the least, so their unexpected contributions will have to come from within, like Small in 2005. Torreyes is a good start, but they’ll need more help than that if they are to survive this tough break of injuries.
It would be great to have a pleasant surprise emerge in the lineup, but I think we can all agree when I say “get well soon, Gary.”