Tara O’Leary, Staff Writer|
Just a few weeks into the MLB regular season, the Yankees are already making headlines, and not in the way that they would like. With 11 of their players on the injured list, New York is off to a rocky start. The list of injured players includes Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Jacoby Ellsbury, C.C. Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius, Troy Tulowitzki, Dellin Betances, Ben Heller, and Miguel Andujar.
Even more jaw dropping than the 11 players on the I.L. is the $87 million in 2019 salaries sitting on that list. This staggering number is larger than the entire opening day payroll for multiple MLB teams, including the Pirates, Marlins, Rays, and Orioles. “It’s been crazy,” said Tulowitzki, “I’ve never seen anything like it.” The Yankees offense has certainly been at a loss because of it, as injuries have removed 119 of last year’s major league record 267 home runs from the lineup. With this large loss of talent, the Yankees don’t really have room for error. They have to capitalize when they can, and they have not been taking advantage of that lately. In a recent game against the Detroit Tigers, New York’s lineup struck out 18 times, setting a team record for a nine inning game. However, manager Aaron Boone isn’t doubting his team. “We’re always capable of going on a roll,” he said. “That’s a matter of time. That’s a matter of us starting to click all together and getting some guys hot collectively in the lineup and getting our pitchers settled in. Even banged up, I’m confident we can go on a run at any point.”
Luckily for the Yankees, the majority of their remaining games in April are against teams that had losing records in 2018. A few of their fallen stars could potentially return later this month, including Sabathia, Betances, and Stanton. They have to wait a bit longer on Hicks and Severino, who are slotted to come back in May. Hicks, whose progress has been slower than they originally anticipated, just recently returned to baseball activities. “He went out and threw and played catch for the first time,” said Boone. “Hopefully now he’ll start to move as he eventually gets here.” In regards to the Yankees third baseman, Andujar could be spending the rest of the season off the field. If the labrum tear in his right shoulder doesn’t respond well to rehab, he may have to undergo season-ending surgery. Even so, Boone is choosing to stay positive. “I kind of look at the bright side of things in that most of these injuries, and I say that with the hope on Andujar, we do feel like they are shorter-term things,” he told radio host Mike Francesa. “It creates some opportunities for guys, guys that are going to have to contribute at different parts of the season. You try to look at it and make the most of it. The bottom line is we still have a group that is capable of going out there and winning games right now.”
Although the Yankees were looked at as a preseason World Series contender, right now they are focused on getting their guys back. “As far as guys going down with something all within a few days of each other, it can be frustrating,” said Brett Gardner, who is currently the Yankees longest-tenured player. Gardner also acknowledged that the 162 game season is a long one. “If you went 2-4 during a week sometime in May or June, it might not be a big deal. But when it’s the first six games of the season, obviously it’s all we have to judge ourselves at this point.” The Yankees aren’t alone in their early season struggles, as the defending champion Boston Red Sox are currently sitting at 3-8; the Cubs are 3-7; and the 2017 champion Astros are 5-5 (As of 4/8). In the past, teams have recovered from tough starts. In 2016 the Dodgers had a record setting 28 players on the I.L. but later went on to win their division and advance to the National League Championship Series. “We’ll be better for having gone through this,” Boone predicted, “and we’ll come storming out of this. I’m sure of that.”