One of the main storylines heading into the 2016 season for the New York Yankees is their beefed up bullpen. Already looking fierce with the likes of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, the Yankees acquired hard-throwing Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman during the offseason.
Chapman will begin the season with a 30-game suspension under MLB's new domestic violence policy. On Wednesday, the Yankees learned that they could be facing a situation where they are without two of their three top relievers to start the year, and another valuable piece to their bullpen as well (later confirmed to be worse when it was revealed that Bryan Mitchell would miss three months with a fractured toe).
Ace reliever Andrew Miller, recipient of the 2015 Mariano Rivera award for AL Reliever of the Year, found himself on the wrong side of the coin in the Yankees' spring training affair against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday afternoon. Miller was struck on the right wrist on a line drive by Braves catcher Willians Astudillo, forcing the tall lefty to exit the game.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, frustration came with that departure from the mound, per Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal:
Andrew Miller was just drilled on the right wrist and immediately walked off the mound and into the dugout. He slammed his glove down.— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) March 30, 2016
Moments later, fans found out the status of the 10-year veteran. Per a statement from Brian Cashman, courtesy of Erik Boland of Newsday:
Cashman said Miller had a "bruised right wrist." On his way back to Tampa for X-rays and a CT scan— Erik Boland (@eboland11) March 30, 2016
As if that wasn't enough, the Bronx Bombers were dealt another injury to their bullpen Wednesday. Bryan Mitchell, who has appeared in 23 games over the last two seasons, hurt his big toe while covering first base, according to NJ.com reporter Ryan Hatch:
Mitchell hurt his big toe covering first base, according to Cashman. Further details not yet available— Ryan Hatch (@ryanhatch) March 30, 2016
Lke Miller, Mitchell will be heading for an MRI too after spraining his big left toe, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News:
Sprained left big toe for Bryan Mitchell. He'll undergo an MRI.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) March 30, 2016
Suffice it to say for the Yanks, this is a nightmare scenario heading into the start of the season. (Just to add to the fun, prospect Wilkerman Garcia is dealing with a shoulder injury as well.) Not only could they lose a key middle reliever in Mitchell (who just officially made the team), but one of their strongest arms in Miller if the bruise turns out to be something more.
Dellin Betances was overworked at the end of 2015, but he may be called upon even more in the opening salvo in 2016 than originally thought if this nightmare scenario indeed occurs. At the very least, he would step into the closer's role and open the door for Chasen Shreve to serve as the setup man. The loss of Justin Wilson, who was somewhat curiously traded to the Detroit Tigers in the offseason, may also loom large if Chapman, Miller, and Mitchell are all absent from the bullpen.
The likes of Johnny Barbato, Luis Cessa, and Kirby Yates are all part of the current 25-man roster. With the possibility of Miller and Mitchell being sidelined with injuries, Branden Pinder could be someone that makes sense to be elevated as he has experience up on the main roster. Last year, Pinder appeared in 25 games and had 2.93 ERA in 27.2 innings pitched with 25 strikeouts, 14 walks, and a K/9 of 8.1. He seemed to put on a fine performance in spring training, but was cut from camp earlier today.
We'll hold our collective breaths as Miller and Mitchell head for their MRIs. For now, it's evident that a bullpen shakeup could be on the horizon.
Jack Curry, YES Network insider, is reporting that Miller's CT scan revealed a chip fracture in his right wrist:
Source: Andrew Miller's CT-scan revealed a chip fracture in right wrist. He will visit with a hand specialist to determine the next step.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) March 31, 2016
Curry would go on to say that the Yankees will not know if Miller needs to be on the disabled list or not until after he sees a hand specialist.
Until Miller is examined by the hand specialist, the Yankees won't know if this injury will cause him to start the season on the DL.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) March 31, 2016
Suffice it to say... it could be worse, but this is still pretty bad. It sounds like he will pitch through it; this will be something to monitor as the Yankees' season gets underway in April.
Yankees announce fracture and Grade 3 turf toe for Bryan Mitchell. @JackCurryYES reports out three months. Unreal. Had a terrific spring.— Lohud Yankees Blog (@LoHudYankees) March 31, 2016
Well, that absolutely sucks for Mitchell considering how sharp he looked in camp. That puts him out until July basically. The bullpen will have to step up.