- There were concerns over banged-up Yankees starters James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka on Saturday, but both are making good progress, Sarah Langs of MLB.com explains. The same holds true for reliever Dellin Betances, who hasn’t pitched this season because of a bone spur in his right shoulder.
Yankees southpaw James Paxton has been on the injured list since May 5 because of left knee inflammation, but it’s up in the air whether a return is imminent. Paxton said he still felt “something” in his knee during a bullpen session Friday, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. While Paxton added he “woke up this morning feeling pretty good,” he’ll face an important test Sunday during another bullpen session.
As if injuries to Paxton and other key cogs haven’t troubled the Yankees enough this year, right-hander Masahiro Tanaka departed his start Saturday against the Rays after six innings with a right shin contusion, James Wagner of the New York Times was among those to tweet. X-rays came back negative, but Tanaka expressed uncertainty after the game whether he’ll be able to make his next start.
Although the Yankees have gone without injured ace Luis Severino all season, Paxton and Tanaka have done their best to keep the team’s rotation among the majors’ top staffs thus far. In the process, they’ve helped New York not only stay afloat in the standings, but thrive.
The heat-throwing Paxton, a former Mariner who’s in his first year as a Yankee, tossed 37 2/3 innings of 3.11 ERA/2.51 FIP ball and posted a lofty 12.42 K/9 prior to landing on the IL. Tanaka, meanwhile, was brilliant Saturday, continuing a strong season in which he has notched a 3.09 ERA/3.80 FIP across a team-best 58 1/3 frames. It’s unclear how the Bombers would replace Tanaka should he miss time. The Yankees are already set to deploy reliever Chad Green as an opener Sunday because they’re lacking a healthy fifth starter behind Tanaka, Domingo German, C.C. Sabathia and J.A. Happ, having just lost Jonathan Loaisiga for several weeks because of a shoulder strain.
While the injury bug continues to fluster the Nationals attempt at contention in 2019, the Yankees are undeterred by its laundry list of injured players as it reshapes (time and again) their active roster. In storming back late to beat the Rays last night, the Yanks took control of the AL East despite an unfathomable seventeen players spending time on the injured list. The reality is that injuries will continue to be part of their 2019 story, even as players return to the field. Star right fielder Aaron Judge, at least, is resigned to being less than 100 percent for the duration, as “you don’t have time to get all the way there,” says Judge, per Dan Martin and Peter Botte of the New York Post. Though he acknowledges the aches and pains as par for the course during a 162-game major league season, it’s disheartening, if difficult to quantify the impact of Judge’s statement for the Yanks moving forward. Regardless, the towering 27-year-old will don the pinstripes once again as soon as he is ready to play, full healthy or not. The rest of the injured Yanks are doing their best to do the same, so let’s check in on a couple of those updates…
- James Paxton’s ten days on the injured list are just about up, but that doesn’t mean their ace lefty is quite ready to return. Per Martin and Botte, Paxton will throw another bullpen session on Sunday, while the Yankees plan to make do with an opener or bullpen game. Paxton is as critical to the Yankees success as Judge, if not more so, as he was racking up strikeouts by the dozen when he went down with knee inflammation. While he won’t be back on Sunday, his return to the rotation does not appear too far off.
- Didi Gregorius, meanwhile, is on his way to extended Spring Training with the hopes of being ready to make his major league debut sometime in June, per James Wagner of the New York Times (via Twitter). Gregorius, of course, is making his way back from Tommy John surgery. Though they’ll no doubt welcome the gregarious Gregorius with open arms whenever he is ready, the infield trio of Gleyber Torres (117 wRC+), DJ LeMahieu (110 wRC+) and Gio Urshela (142 wRC+) have more than held their own in his absence. Urshela, especially, has exceeded any and all expectation, as the 27-year-old journeyman boasts a .347/.398/.500 slash line through 108 plate appearances. Gregorius would boost the infield’s overall defense, however, as Torres, with five errors on the season, is just one shy of matching the sure-handed Gregorius’ total over 132 games last season. Still, given the upward-trending state of affairs in New York, there’s no reason to rush Gregorius back to the diamond, even if he doesn’t need a full Spring Training to prepare, as Aaron Boone suggests.
- Boone also says that Giancarlo Stanton’s comeback trail could begin with a rehab stint this Sunday. Giancarlo has been out since April 1 with a left biceps strain after playing in just three games to start his sophomore season in New York. Stanton racked a .266/.343/.509 line in his first season in pinstripes with 38 home runs and an even 100 RBIs. Though his production took a step down from his MVP season in Florida the year prior, Stanton remains the co-face of the Yankees’ two towers offense, and his return will only deepen an already-productive lineup. It’s been a revolving door of injured sluggers following Stanton in the DH slot, with Kendrys Morales the latest to man the spot ashe slugged his first home run as a Yankee in last night’s win.
The Yankees announced tonight that third baseman Miguel Andujar will undergo surgery to repair the labrum tear in his right shoulder next Monday. He’s expected to miss the remainder of the 2019 season.
The team and fans alike had huge hopes for Andujar, who finished second in 2018 American League Rookie of the Year voting, but his 2019 campaign will unfortunately come to an end after just a dozen games and 49 plate appearances. The 23-year-old originally landed on the injured list after just three games and missed the entire month of April as well as some time in early May before opting to return in an attempt to play through the injury.
Andujar, though, went just 3-for-34 at the plate with a walk and nine strikeouts in his brief return to the active roster before being placed back on the IL. Yankees skipper Aaron Boone said yesterday that Andujar was once again weighing his options and planned to talk them over with his family, though the decision apparently didn’t take all that long this time around.
The injury to Andujar is the most serious the Yankees have faced in a season that has already been permeated by health woes, but the team currently has both Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu healthy as well as Gio Urshela playing the best baseball of his professional career. The club eventually hopes to have both Troy Tulowitzki and Didi Gregorius back in the infield mix as well, and if that happens, they’ll still have a strong mix of options to pair with first baseman Luke Voit in rounding out the infield.
That said, the impact of losing a bat that produced a .297/.328/.527 batting line with 27 homers, 47 doubles and a pair of triples a year ago can’t be understated. Andujar was a key middle-of-the-order presence for last year’s 100-win Yankees club, and while there’s no shortage or internal options to replace him on a fully healthy club, it’s also unlikely that any of the alternatives can match that level of offensive output. Whoever shoulders the load at third base for the remainder of the season will likely be a defensive upgrade over Andujar, who struggled with the glove last season.
Andujar will still accrue Major League service time while he finishes out the season on the injured list, and he’ll cross the two-year mark in the months to come. He won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2020 season and won’t be a free agent until the 2023-24 offseason. The Yankees, meanwhile, will be able to easily open a 40-man roster spot by transferring him to the 60-day injured list the next time a need arises.
The Yankees announced that they’ve acquired first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales from the Athletics in exchange for cash or a player to be named later. In order to open a spot on the 40-man roster, New York transferred righty Jonathan Loaisiga from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day injured list.
Morales, 35, was designated for assignment by the Athletics yesterday. Oakland had picked him up early in the season after losing first baseman Matt Olson to a hand injury for more than a month. However, the veteran Morales struggled quite a bit in limited time with the A’s, hitting at a .204/.310/.259 clip and connecting on just one home run. With Olson and fellow first baseman Mark Canha healthy in Oakland alongside designated hitter Khris Davis, there simply wasn’t a place on the Athletics’ roster for the struggling Morales.
That’s not necessarily the case up in the Bronx, however. While Luke Voit has solidified himself as the team’s primary first baseman, the outfield/designated hitter mix is considerably less certain. Morales could see fairly regular time at DH in the short term, leaving the Yankees with a starting outfield of Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier, while Cameron Maybin shifts into a reserve role. Although Morales’ 2019 production has been nonexistent, he’s just a year removed from a respectable .249/.331/.438 batting line and is a combined .270/.330/.465 hitter dating back to the 2009 season — when he first established himself as a Major League regular.
Of course, that alignment isn’t anywhere near what the Yankees had envisioned heading into the season, but the team’s jaw-dropping list of injuries has been well documented by now. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird, Troy Tulowitzki and Didi Gregorius are all on the injured list, while Aaron Hicks was only just activated from the IL and has yet to make his season debut. To their credit, despite that slate of injuries, the Yankees are hitting .253/.333/.430 (104 wRC+) as a team and rank right in the middle of the pack in terms of total runs scored among MLB clubs.
A followup MRI on the ailing right shoulder of Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar revealed little to no changes in his shoulder from the April MRI that initially revealed a small labrum tear, manager Aaron Boone told reporters Tuesday afternoon (Twitter links via James Wagner of the New York Times and Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). Andujar, according to Boone, has been encouraged to discuss the situation with his family and will spend the next day or so mulling his options. Season-ending surgery is still on the table, it seems.
The update from Boone comes just a day after Andujar was placed back on the 10-day injured list following a brief return to the active roster. Andujar missed the entire month of April and a few games early in May before returning on May 4 to go 3-for-34 (all singles) with one walk and nine strikeouts. While both Andujar and the team had hoped that the small nature of the tear would allow him to play through the injury, that poor showing has cast further doubt on his ability to do so.
In place of Andujar, Gio Urshela seems likely to continue logging regular work at the hot corner. He’s acquitted himself nicely at the plate through 101 plate appearances thus far (.341/.396/.505), but the 27-year-old has never shown much offensive ability in the big leagues and is currently sporting a .392 average on balls in play that looks ripe for regression.
The outlook on another injured slugger, Giancarlo Stanton, is perhaps more optimistic but also quite vague (Twitter links via Wagner and Hoch). The initial biceps strain that landed Stanton on the injured list back on April 1 has healed, but Boone suggested that Stanton’s left shoulder is still bothering him. Stanton received a cortisone injection in that problematic shoulder a couple of weeks ago and is continuing to run and take at-bats in a simulated setting, but he is not on a rehab assignment just yet. Boone was extremely nebulous in his description of the injury but stated that there’s no tear in Stanton’s shoulder; the Yankees have since announced that Stanton is dealing with a left shoulder strain.
New York’s outlook in the outfield is a bit steadier with Aaron Hicks back on the active roster and set for his season debut. Hicks will of course be in line for regular center field duties, with Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier and hot-hitting Cameron Maybin cycling through the outfield corners and perhaps spending some time at DH here and there. At present, though, it’s not clear when Stanton or fellow injured slugger Aaron Judge will be able to step back into the fray.
A second straight rain delay will give all of those injured Yankees some time to mend, as tonight’s game against the Orioles has already been postponed. New York and Baltimore will play a doubleheader tomorrow to make up for yesterday’s rain-out, and tonight’s game will be made up as part of an August doubleheader.
Andujar previously suffered a right labrum tear that seemingly threatened to end his season. Surgery wasn’t the first option, however, and Andujar seemed to emerge from a month-long rehab stint in good form.
Unfortunately, the joint has evidently not responded as hoped since Andujar was activated. In nine games this month, he’s hitting just .088/.114/.088.
It isn’t entirely clear at this point what the next steps might be. Andujar could try again to rest and rehab, but it stands to reason that the surgical option will also be revisited.
Even as the Yankees welcome injured players back to the roster — Aaron Hicks was activated for his season debut today — new injuries continue to pile up. The team announced today that right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga has been placed on the 10-day injured list due to a shoulder strain, and manager Aaron Boone announced to reporters that Loaisiga won’t throw a baseball for at least the next four weeks (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch). The 24-year-old is dealing with a strain of his right rotator cuff.
Loaisiga had been slated to start tonight’s contest, but that start will now fall to right-hander Luis Cessa. Righty Chance Adams was recalled from Triple-A in place of Loaisiga, so he’ll be on hand as an option for some length in the middle of the game as well, should the need arise. Loaisiga joins James Paxton, Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery (still recovering from 2018 Tommy John surgery) as rotation options on the injured list.
While Loaisiga has yet to establish himself at the MLB level, he’s nevertheless a well-regarded prospect. Baseball America currently ranks him as the No. 94 farmhand in all of baseball, and he owns a career 2.88 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 in his minor league career. Injuries, though, have been a persistent factor for Loaisiga, who has never thrown more than the 84 2/3 innings he tossed last year in any single professional season.
Following tonight’s spot start from Cessa, the Yankees’ rotation will include Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Domingo German, CC Sabathia and a yet-to-be-determined fifth option. Presumably, Cessa and Adams will both be candidates for that spot, as will the recently optioned Nestor Cortes Jr. As for the team’s injured starters, Severino has yet to begin a throwing program following his latest shutdown, while Paxton has played catch but not embarked on a minor league rehab assignment. There’s hope that Paxton could return before month’s end but no indication that a return is imminent. Montgomery isn’t expected back until later midsummer.
Loaisiga’s injury is the latest in an ongoing series of physical ailments that have tested the Yankees’ depth at virtually every spot on the roster so far in 2019. Of course, the Yankees have largely passed any such test with flying colors; the team is eight games over .500 — just a half game out of the AL East lead — and carries a +36 run differential despite the interminable onslaught of health troubles they’ve faced.
May 13: The Yankees announced that Hicks has been reinstated from the injured list. To clear a spot on the roster, fellow outfielder Mike Tauchman has been optioned to Triple-A.
The Yankees’ total count of players on the injured list won’t decrease, however, as the team announced that scheduled starter Jonathan Loaisiga has been scratched and placed on the 10-day IL due to a strained right shoulder. In his place, righty Chance Adams has been called up from Triple-a.
May 12: The Yankees will activate center fielder Aaron Hicks from the injured list Monday, manager Aaron Boone announced (via James Wagner of the New York Times). It’ll be a long-awaited return for Hicks, who has been on the shelf since early March with lower back issues.
Hicks’ injury was one of the earliest hits the Yankees took amid an absurd run of early season ailments. Since Hicks went down, the Yankees have dealt with key injuries to fellow foundational players in Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Miguel Andujar and Dellin Betances, among others. Even though the Yankees have largely been without everyone from that group and haven’t been able to simultaneously deploy their top outfielders – Hicks, Judge and Stanton – the club has still stormed to a 23-16 record.
The Yankees were 90-plus-win title contenders in each of the previous two seasons, thanks in no small part to Hicks, who broke out in 2017. The former Twin, 29, combined for 8.2 fWAR over 942 plate appearances the past two years on the strength of a .255/.368/.470 line (127 wRC+), solid defense and quality baserunning. The switch-hitting Hicks’ 2017-18 output led to a seven-year, $70MM extension from the Yankees in late February, but he hasn’t taken a big league at-bat since reeling in that payday.
With Hicks set to man center upon his return, veteran Brett Gardner will return to the corner outfield. Gardner has struggled mightily over the past couple weeks, though, and could be in line for reduced playing time with in-season pickup Cameron Maybin playing well and fellow recent addition Mike Tauchman performing better than expected. Clint Frazier has been the most effective regular of the bunch this year, but like Gardner, he has been mired in a slump of late.
The Yankees have claimed infielder Breyvic Valera off waivers from the Giants, according to The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly. He will report to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for his new club. To make room for Valera, the Yankees have transferred first baseman Greg Bird to the 60-day IL, adds James Wagner of The New York Times.
Valera, 27, was designated for assignment by the Giants not long after he was acquired from the Orioles. The Yankees will mark his fifth club since 2017, having spent time with the Cardinals, Dodgers, Orioles, and Giants over the last three seasons. He has amassed just 86 MLB plate appearances owing to a lack of opportunities, though Valera is the owner of an impressive BB:K ratio in his minor league career.
Valera will join a Yankees infield that has been hit hard by injuries early in the season, though the emergence of Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar’s return to Yanks’ lineup will likely limit Valera’s opportunities to receive playing time. For the time being, he slots into a organizational depth role behind the likes of Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada.