The Yankees managed to eke out a narrow 2-1 victory over the Rays on Sunday to avoid a sweep and push their AL East lead back up to five games. It was stressful, but undoubtedly good news. Unfortunately, not all the news that emerged from the afternoon was positive.
Immediately after New York sealed its victory, manager Aaron Boone told reporters that outfielder Andrew Benintendi had broken the hook of his hamate bone and would need surgery. Acquired from the Royals at the trade deadline, the 28-year-old got off to a slow start, but his bat was one of the few among the Yankees to show any signs of life in recent weeks outside of Aaron Judge. From August 16th onward, he hit .300/.338/.500 with seven extra-base hits and a 138 wRC+.
Then came Friday night’s 9-0 disaster, which involved Benintendi leaving an at-bat in the third inning after hearing a pop in his wrist.
Apparently, the surgery is not necessarily season-ending ...
It's a fractured hamate (right hand) for Andrew Benintendi, requiring surgery. Not necessarily season ending, but he'll know more tomorrow after seeing a specialist.— Pete Caldera (@pcaldera) September 4, 2022
... but it’s hard to imagine Benintendi returning to the Yankees in any meaningful capacity this year. Hand injuries can be notoriously tricky to recover from, and just to use one example (per writer Deesha Thosar), Mets catcher James McCann missed six weeks with the same surgery.
Six weeks from now would put us around the end of the ALDS and ALCS. Forget whether or not the struggling 2022 Yankees can pick up the pieces enough to still be playing by then — Kyle Schwarber-esque comebacks in the middle of the playoffs are quite rare. Maybe Benintendi can beat the odds because his situation is a little weird due to a prior surgery in college to remove the hamate bone, but the smart play is not to hold your breath.
With Benintendi out, the pressure only increases on both Judge to keep up his home run heroics and on the rest of the lineup to actually give him some damn help. It’s probably going to lead to too much Aaron Hicks rather than rookie Estevan Florial, who took Benintendi’s roster spot and strikes out a ton, but can cover center field much more capably while at least offering a change of pace from Hicks’ atrocious second-half showing at the plate. The little-used Tim Locastro and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez — he of the 0-for-29 since July 6th — might make some similarly unwanted appearances, too, and I guess Giancarlo Stanton is eventually a possibility if his left Achilles tendinitis recovery allows for it.
Harrison Bader completing a successful comeback from plantar fasciitis would also be key, but he is only in the process of a “10-day ramp up” at this point with no rehab games yet, so who knows when he’ll be back? For now, the best outfield formation involves Judge, Florial, and perhaps rookie Oswaldo Cabrera in right, but again, I expect an unhealthy amount of Hicks.