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The return of Alex Rodriguez and Aaron Hicks will save Yankees' depleted depth chart

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Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few days ago, Alex Rodriguez was pulled from a game against the Rays in the sixth inning after straining his oblique in the batting cages between innings. At the same time, Aaron Hicks was considered day-to-day after hurting his shoulder on a dive in the outfield. The Yankees were down to a two-man bench, and they weren't planning on DLing anyone. Good thing A-Rod and Hicks both seem to be healthy after last night's game, because their depth chart has already been hit pretty hard.

Aside from having one of the least exciting offseasons in baseball, the Yankees at least constructed one of the most versatile. By Opening Day, the team's four-man bench of Dustin Ackley, Aaron Hicks, Ronald Torreyes, and Austin Romine could play something like 12 different positions. At one point there was even talk of having the 25th man on the roster be shuffled around depending on what the team needed. On top of the strong roster construction at the MLB level, the Yankees also had a group of young players ready to contribute whenever they could get the chance. Too bad most of them have already gotten hurt, making it vital for A-Rod and Hicks to remain healthy.

Designated Hitter

The injury bug struck the 2016 team early by taking Greg Bird away from us when he required shoulder surgery in the offseason. He was supposed to start the year in Triple-A, but the health issues surrounding Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez made his return inevitable. If either went down for long, Bird could easily fill in to either role as needed. The injury changed all that, giving the Yankees no real backup at DH if A-Rod were to miss time.

Their only options now would be to shuffle players around to fill the spot in the lineup, which would most likely be Carlos Beltran, or call up Nick Swisher. With the loss of Bird, the Yankees don't have much in the way of offensive power waiting down on the farm. And no, Aaron Judge would not be an option here.

Outfield

Replacing Hicks is complicated because you'd need to replace a backup outfield and someone who can hit left-handed pitching. Hypothetically, the Yankees have Ackley–and even Ronald Torreyes–on the MLB roster to play the outfield, but Joe Girardi has been reluctant to play him out there, or really anywhere other than first base. If the Yankees were to lose Hicks, they would probably need to call up an outfielder.

Unfortunately, the outfield depth chart has been weakened by injury. Before Hicks hurt his shoulder, the Yankees were already missing Mason Williams, who has yet to return from his 2015 shoulder injury, and Slade Heathcott, who has no ability to avoid the disabled list for any considerable amount of time. Judge won't be brought up this early into the season because he still has things he needs to work on. He would probably only get a chance if he was hitting well in the second half of the season and Beltran was going to be out for a long time. Instead, filling in for Hicks would fall to Ben Gamel, or the right-handed hitting Lane Adams, which likely won't get much hype.

While the Yankees could shuffle things around to replace A-Rod, losing Hicks could affect the roster in many different ways. The team is already terrible against left-handed hitters, so losing Hicks could render the lineup useless against a southpaw. Seeing him throw out runners is also a welcomed alternative to the weak arms Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury possess.

Thankfully, it looks like Rodriguez is healthy after his return to the lineup in Texas, and he could finally be hitting. Before missing a few games, the 40-year-old DH batted a measly .145/.242/.273 over 62 plate appearances, but last night he came back with three hits and finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Hicks only made a token appearance as a pinch runner, but it should mean that he has been cleared to play going forward. The Yankees have made mistakes with DL moves before, but I'm going to assume they're both healthy. It's still early in the season, and though everyone seems to be struggling at the moment, the team–and their thinned depth chart–could still use another few months of a healthy A-Rod and a healthy Hicks.