For the Yankees, 2019 seemed less like a baseball season and more like a battleground—at least based on the rate and volume of injuries. Losing players at a historic rate, the Bombers’ dugout became the frontline trench in a war for the American League, consistently drawing on reinforcements from Scranton, the waiver wire, and elsewhere.
Following this past week, you’d be forgiven if you thought the calendar still read 2019. Entering January, we already knew that Aaron Hicks would begin the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and before spring training began, that James Paxton would be sidelined until May following a procedure to remove a cyst.
When camp actually opened, we learned that Aaron Judge’s shoulder has been bothering him a bit and that he’s not cleared to take live batting practice. And let’s not forget this past week, when Luis Severino found out that he required Tommy John surgery and Giancarlo Stanton strained his calf.
Everything sounds terrible, right? But there’s no reason to panic just yet.
For starters, out of the five players mentioned above, three of these injuries—Hicks, Paxton, and Severino—date back to last season, as Hicks had surgery in October, and both pitchers first felt pain and discomfort during the playoffs. While they certainly affect the 2020 season, they’re not part of a new injury epidemic; they’re simply the last of the walking wounded from 2019’s outbreak.
That leaves two Yankees players nursing injuries, albeit two important players. Although fans have jumped on the panic train with Stanton, his calf strain has been diagnosed as a Grade 1, the least severe kind. It should take only a week or two to heal. Just last April, in fact, Gary Sanchez returned to action after missing only 11 games with the same injury. Had it happened during the regular season, perhaps that is all he would have missed. Having this occur during spring training, however, certainly makes recovery more difficult, as he not only has to rehab the calf, but resume his halted training regimen.
For obvious reasons, the continual uncertainty about Judge’s injury has many fans worrying; after all, Severino’s eventual UCL tear was first described as merely “forearm tightness.” Until such an announcement comes, however, there’s no reason to suspect anything except an overabundance of caution, particularly with a player who has had a history of shoulder problems dating back before he was drafted.
Furthermore, should these two players need to miss time, the Yankees do have plenty of depth, as they showed last season. Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and Miguel Andujar currently serve as the Yankees’ backup outfield. All things considered, it wouldn’t be too bad of a starting outfield for numerous teams, especially if Frazier and Andujar make strides defensively.
In fact, if it seems that the Yankees are being too cautious with them, you might actually be right. While there’s a significant drop-off in talent from Judge and Stanton to these three, that’s due to their own intrinsic ability, and not the inability of their backups. If the Yankees have faith in these three—and they do, or else Frazier and Andujar would have become pitchers and Tauchman would have remained in Colorado—this behavior would not be surprising.
Lastly, and most importantly, injuries do happen. The Red Sox are missing Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, and new outfielder Alex Verdugo; Houston, Justin Verlander and Brad Peacock; Minnesota, Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler. Every team deals with injuries at all times of the year, even in spring training.
It’s perfectly understandable why Yankees fans are -over-analyzing all bits of injury news. Because of last year’s torrential downpour of injuries, every fan becomes just a bit concerned when they hear “Yankee” and “injury” in a sentence, even if the context indicates we’re talking about wounded soldiers in the Revolutionary War. It’s understandable to worry. But so far, 2020 is nothing out of the ordinary.