As far as overall health is concerned, the start to the Yankees’ season has been anything but optimal. Saturday’s disappointing loss in Toronto was highlighted by a comebacker crashing into Adam Warren’s right ankle, shortly after Billy McKinney went crashing into the left field wall. Both were forced to exit the game and head for x-rays, which luckily both came back negative.
McKinney, who had just made his major league debut on Friday, was diagnosed with a left AC joint shoulder sprain and will miss a few weeks. Warren suffered an ankle contusion and seems to have dodged a bullet on something more serious.
The pair of injuries come after Aaron Hicks was placed on the 10-day DL with an intercostal strain on Friday, as the outfield dilemma has become a much less enviable one. With Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier still making their way back from injuries, the question is no longer about finding playing time for the crowded outfield depth chart. Aaron Boone must now figure out who exactly CAN play the outfield at this point.
Oh, and Greg Bird is still out until June. Just one series into the regular season, and the Yankee injuries are piling up.
Before Yankees Universe sends themselves into a frenzied panic, it’s important to remember exactly where the Yankees were just a season ago, and how they handled their own health adversities.
Right around this time last season, the Yankees had dropped their third-straight game to fall to 1-4. In that 5-4 loss to the Orioles, Gary Sanchez had come up lame after fouling off a pitch and was diagnosed with a biceps strain, which would sideline the former Rookie of the Year runner-up for a month.
The news of the Sanchez injury was a major blow for the Yankees, who had already lost Didi Gregorius for a month, and Bird was struggling to find his way after fouling a pitch off his ankle on the final day of spring training. I’m not positive, but Jacoby Ellsbury was probably on the DL at this time as well (actually, he would eventually miss time at the end of May).
Despite the injuries and an ineffective Bird, the Yankees finished the month on a 14-4 run, thanks to Aaron Judge’s 10 April homers and a ridiculous 198 wRC+ over the first month of the season. The rebuilding and shorthanded Yankees finished the month with the best record in the American League, with hitters like Ronald Torreyes and Austin Romine in the lineup on a nightly basis. That should instill some hope for this season’s health struggles, right?
Torreyes finished the first month of 2017 with a wRC+ of 95, while Romine finished with a mark of 115. The two combined to produce a product slightly above league average, which more than did the job while Gregorius and Sanchez were on the mend. That’s all the Yankees are looking for here while their outfield and Bird make their way back.
Tyler Austin mashing two home runs on Saturday was certainly a start to plugging the Bird-sized hole at first base for now. Brandon Drury’s stellar play has locked down third base, so Boone can shuffle between Austin and Neil Walker at first base and possibly try Tyler Wade in the outfield when he’s not playing second base. Thanks to a few versatile infielders, there are (some) options.
It’s a tall order to look for Judge to hit like he did last April and carry the Yanks offensively. Luckily, the Yanks added Giancarlo Stanton, who more than makes up for some of the offense that has been lost to injury already. Stanton can handle some outfield duties until Ellsbury or Hicks returns, which will hopefully be sooner rather than later, but we’re not holding our breath.
Health-wise, the season could have started a lot better. Injuries happen, and depth will immediately be tested. Fortunately, the Yanks don’t have to look very far back in their history to realize that they’ve effectively weathered such a storm before.