Injuries Galore

The Yankees left for California in good health. Things have gone downhill quickly.

First we had CC Sabathia get hurt in his start Tuesday. Sabathia went to the DL and the Yankees need a starter for Sunday and the immediate future.

Then came word that Greg Bird is ending his rehab and flying back to NY to see a doctor. That probably puts him back in NY after the All-Star Break in the best of circumstances.

Then Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks left last nights game with injuries and are listed as day-to-day.

And Adam Warren has shoulder inflammation and is headed to the DL.

And the Yankees are 1-3 on this road trip so far.

So the Yankees made a flurry of moves tonight and I would expect more tomorrow. Kyle Higashioka and Mason Williams are up from Scranton with Gallegos optioned and Warren hitting the DL. That leaves the Yankees with 12 pitchers, but it’s probably temporary. Higashioka and Williams are going back to Scranton as soon as Hicks and Sanchez are ready and I would bet the Yankees roll the dice to get at least one more arm here tomorrow with Sunday’s starter listed as TBD. (Bet on Cessa getting the ball though).

All of this makes Luis Severino’s start tonight a big one. They need him to be effective and they need him to go deep into the game. Every team struggles through injuries and the Yankees are going to have to figure this out.

Why Chance It?

The MLB Draft is one of the more inexact sciences in life so critiques of individual picks should be used sparingly, but the Yankees have left me scratching my head with their first-round pick. Clarke Schmidt has a lot of the things you would want in a future Yankee. He’s reportedly a great kid, he throws really hard and he went 4-2 with a 1.34 ERA for the University of South Carolina this year. The only problem is, he had Tommy John surgery in May.

That means he will definitely miss the rest of this year. And he will probably miss at least half of next year. I get that he is reportedly one of the top arms in the draft, but his arm doesn’t work right now and might never work the same way again. And unlike many of the past years, the Yankees were picking in the middle of the draft (16th) rather than the back of the draft. In fact, you can draw an uncomfortable parallel between this pick and the Andrew Brackman pick of ten years ago. Brackman was hurt when the Yankees picked him, but they defended the choice by saying that next to David Price, he had the best arm in the draft. The Yankees were picking thirtieth overall then, but consider some of the guys they could have drafted instead of Brackman- Chris Sale (Round 8), Jordan Zimmerman (Round 3), Corey Kluber (Round 10), Craig Kimbrell (Round 14), Rick Porcello (Round 27) Danny Duffy (Round 2)…you get the idea. Instead they turned to Brackman because they were so desperate for a top-end arm they thought it was worth the risk.

It’s way too early to tell if this will pan out. They may not even sign the guy, but it seems like a dumb risk at this point. The Yankees are probably not going to be picking anywhere as high as 16th next year. They already have an injured, first-round pick recovering from Tommy John, in James Kaprielian. (Ironically also the 16th-overall pick in 2015.) Why double down?

Make This Team Better

The Yankees have almost reached the point where you start to think about the ways to improve this team to make it a legitimate playoff contender. The problem is, that is going to be harder than it looks.

Reflexively, I think most fans would say that the starting rotation is the place to upgrade, but dig a bit deeper. Throw Tanaka’s performance to date out of the equation, and the Yankees have the lowest starter ERA in the majors. The quartet of Pineda, Sabathia, Severino, and Montgomery have been that good. And while advanced stats suggest they are slightly overrated, it isn’t by a huge amount.

So maybe you say Tanaka is the guy to go, but his contract makes that impossible. He can opt-out after this season, or he can stay with the Yankees and keep on earning $22-million a year for the next three seasons. If you remove him from the rotation, he stays and you pay him $66-million to sit in the bullpen. That’s not realistic, so the Yankees really have no choice but to keep sending him out there.

The bullpen has been a strength, and with Chapman due back soon, there is no need to improve it. The Yankees have four guys they can rely on late- Chapman, Betances, Clippard, and Warren, and they have plenty of interesting arms that could add to that quartet.

That leaves the lineup, and there are two obvious holes, first and third. Chris Carter has not been good, but Greg Bird is on the mend and will absolutely get a chance to fill that hole. So that leaves third, and Chase Headley, but the Yankees may also have the answer to that problem internally

Tyler Wade is hitting .307/.372/.449 in Scranton. He has played every position outside of catcher and first. Gleyber Torres is off to good start at Scranton (.273/.403/.418) and he is rotating between second, third and short. Either of them is worthy of a promotion if the Yankees are going to try to replace Headley.

And the Yankees may have set the sequence in motion tonight that leads to that move. They DFA’ed Tommy Lane. That’s because they decided to push Tanaka back a day and need Chad Green to start tomorrow. Since Green is no longer stretched out and they will need to go to the bullpen early, they recalled Domingo German. German was a part of the Prada-Eovaldi trade and he is stretched out. He was also on the 40-man roster, so the Yankees now have an open spot. I would bet that goes to Wade in the very near future.

And that’s why is I expect the Yankees to look inside the organization for help. If a big injury comes along, that could certainly change. But for now, the only logical move is an internal, and not an external, one.

A Big June Start For Big Mike

Michael Pineda may be the most frustrating pitcher I have ever seen in a Yankees’ uniform. He can go out and absolutely dominate a game and then get absolutely torn apart in his next start. He’s now made 83 starts for the Yankees and his record is a mediocre 29-30 with a 4.05 ERA. I don’t think he is in the team’s future plans. In fact I would suspect the best-case scenario for the Yankees is that Pineda pitches well enough to make an arbitration offer a no-brainer and the Yankees can then let him get his riches elsewhere while pocketing a draft pick. But, if there is any hope of the Yankees unlocking the vault for a contract extension, he needs to show them they can trust him in a big spot.

Tonight is one of those starts. The Yankees have a chance to win the series over Boston and send them away trailing by 3 in the division. Conversely, a loss puts the race at a game and gives Boston the series win. Which Mike will show up? Nobody knows, but throughout his career he holds a 4-5 record against Boston with a 4.73 ERA. The Yankees will face David Price, a guy they usually hit well (He’s 14-10 against them, but with a 4.55 ERA) so they should have some chances, but only if the “good” Pineda shows up.

It will be fascinating to watch and I am sure Brian Cashman and his team will take note of what they see. They have a big decision to make about Pineda in the next few months.

Not Too Shabby

Yankees-Red Sox will never equal the intensity of 2003-2004 until 2095 at the earliest. 86 years of tortured baseball versus the best team ever can’t be replicated in our lifetime. But, watching Kimbrel overpower Judge last night was a nice reminder of what this rivalry can be. It was like Mariano versus Ortiz, back in the day. We are still going to need more. We need a legitimate debate about which player you would rather have, like the DiMaggio-Williams debate or the Jeter-Nomar one. (Still can’t believe that one happened). We need more games like that one and we need them late in the season. On that point, the schedule maker is not our friend, the last scheduled Yankees-Red Sox tilt is the day before Labor Day.

But, both teams are grooming young stars and their futures look bright. It shouldn’t be long before they are battling each other for AL East supremacy on a yearly basis.