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The Yankees infield is teetering on the edge of disaster

The depth in the infield is stretched perilously thin while Gleyber Torres remains on the IL after testing positive with COVID-19.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Every team has to deal with injuries. It’s an unfortunate part of the game. However, if you’re a Yankees fan, it must have felt like the new Yankee Stadium was built on cursed ground, given the number of injuries the team has had to withstand in the last handful of years. In 2019, they set a record for most players to hit the injured list in a single season.

But just as those injuries defined the tenor of the season, the Yankees’ response to said injuries defined the character of the team. They embraced the next-man-up mentality. Rather than feel sorry for themselves, they trusted that whoever stepped in to fill a role would get the job done.

That resilience allowed them to make it is far as they did that season, and it is something they will need to draw upon again as the injuries start to pile up in 2021. A wave of COVID swept through the Yankees clubhouse, with eight positive cases confirmed. Gleyber Torres was among those testing positive, and his indefinite stint on the COVID-19 IL leaves the Yankees infield depth perilously thin.

While the loss of one’s starting shortstop is a blow to the team, it normally would be a surmountable obstacle. But with the infield already in a compromised state, the Yankees find themselves in a precarious spot. Some of their other starters and primary backup options around the diamond have already dealt with injury problems this season, giving the Yankees even more to consider when managing workload.

Luke Voit only just returned to the major league roster after missing the first month recovering from meniscus surgery in his knee. He raked in his short minor league rehab assignment, going 7-for-18 with three home runs and two doubles with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. That said, he looks off the major league pace in his three games back. He was still waiting for his first hit of the season heading into last night’s game, having only walked once while striking out four times.

Gio Urshela has been battling knee problems for a good chunk of the season, though has managed to avoid a stint on the injured list so far. He has looked uncomfortable running the bases in recent games, and was scheduled to rest Friday night. That said, he looked just fine rounding the bases after his game-winning pinch-hit three-run home run in the first game of the series. I still expect the Yankees to be extra cautious with him, as he is currently the only viable option at short with Gleyber injured.

Rougned Odor would be the principle backup infielder at all positions other than short, but he remains sidelined with a knee injury he suffered during the collision with Martin Maldonado in the game against the Astros May 4. There is a chance Odor could be ready for the upcoming series against the Rangers, though it is more likely he will remain out until the start of the next homestand.

With Voit and Urshela still hobbled to varying degrees, and the Yankees accordingly taking a conservative approach with their playing time, that leaves Miguel Andújar, Tyler Wade, and Mike Ford as the infield depth options. That does not inspire any confidence, especially when you consider each will fill a pretty regular role given the caution taken towards the starters ahead of them.

Andújar is a long way removed from his thrilling rookie campaign, and he certainly looks it at the plate. He finally broke his duck with the bat, logging his first hit of the season Friday night, though that still left him at a paltry 1-for-17 in five games. So far there haven’t been any disasters in the field, but given his track record with the glove it’s hard to feel great with him at whatever position he ends up.

Wade seems like an obvious answer to Torres’ absence, as his ability to play short would allow Urshela to remain at third. We all know he’ll never be a big league quality hitter but if he can do the little things right - namely field, run, and bunt - he will be a more-than-useful fill-in for Gleyber. Well, it turns out he can’t field, can’t run, and can’t bunt, bringing into question his use to the team.

Ford was supposed to be the left-handed power threat capable of giving Voit a day at first. He has been anything but that, batting a putrid .095/.240/.238 in 50 plate appearances. He has been so bad at the plate, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees take a more creative route when resting Voit - trying Andújar or even Gary Sánchez at first - to avoid sticking Ford’s bat in the lineup.

The Yankees infield faces its toughest test yet while Torres is out on the COVID-19 IL. That’s without even mentioning the depleted state of the outfield, with Aaron Hicks out indefinitely with a torn wrist tendon sheath and Mike Tauchman no longer on the roster. Throw on top Giancarlo Stanton’s day-to-day status with quad tightness and the Yankees starting nine is beginning to look depleted. They are going to need a redux of 2019’s next-man-up mantra, but so far, the replacements haven’t been able to replicate the success of the fill-ins two seasons ago.