TAMPA, Fla. — Andrew Miller took a screaming line drive off his non-pitching hand but insists he’ll be ready to go for Monday’s season opener.
Bryan Mitchell covered first base on a routine play and ended up with a broken left toe. Surgery is a possibility, but regardless, Mitchell will be down a minimum of two months, probably longer.
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Strange game, this baseball. A Yankees bullpen that had been effective and, most important, healthy throughout spring training took two blows in Wednesday’s game against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista.
They very well may have dodged a bullet with Miller, who was injured by Willians Astudillo’s liner off the base of his right hand. X-rays taken early Wednesday evening came back negative, but a subsequent CT scan showed a chip fracture of the pisiform bone.
“It’s my right hand, I don’t real ly need it,” Miller said Thursday morning, his wrist in a wrap, before the Yankees’ 9-1 loss to the Cardinals at Steinbrenner Field. “I don’t see any reason I can’t work around it. If for some reason the doctor tells me I have to protect it for some reason that we don’t foresee, I plan to manipulate my glove around it.”
Miller saved 36 games in 38 opportunities and had a 2.04 ERA as the closer last season. He is slated to be the closer for the first five weeks this season while Aroldis Chapman serves a 30-game MLB suspension for an alleged domestic-abuse incident.
Miller will see a hand specialist this weekend during the team’s two-day stay in Miami. When asked what will happen if that specialist tells him he shouldn’t pitch with the injury, the 6-7 lefthander had a glib response: “I’ll probably find another doctor.”
Miller added, “I can’t imagine not playing because of something on my right hand . . . I think I can work around when it comes to fielding the ball, catching the ball from the catcher. Just not real ly too concerned with it.”
Miller said he talked to trainer Steve Donohue about possibly working on his glove to protect the affected area, likely with extra padding. “I probably fielded the ball three or four times last year, so I’ll figure it out,” he said. “I’m not real ly joking. I think that’s the way it is.’’
Miller had two putouts and one assist in 61 2⁄3 innings last year. “The chances of me fielding the ball are pretty slim,’’ he said. “We can work around it.”
The Yankees will have the final word on that. Joe Girardi said that unless the specialist says Miller can’t do it, he’s comfortable with him pitching.
“It says a lot about him,” Girardi said of Miller’s emphatic declaration. “It says he cares about winning and helping his teammates. And we’ve seen that the year we’ve had him.”
Mitchell got hurt moving to cover first base on a grounder in the eighth, one inning after Miller’s injury. Mitchell felt something in his big left toe as he moved off the mound.
“I felt something, but I definitely didn’t think it was this severe, given that I could still get over to the base and all that,” said Mitchell, who entered the clubhouse on crutches and in a walking boot. He will see foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, who operated on Derek Jeter’s ankle in 2012, on Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The injury was particularly cruel for the 24-year-old, who was told he had made the club after having a terrific spring. The Yankees planned to use Mitchell as the swingman, a role Adam Warren filled so well last season. It could fall to righthander Luis Cessa or the loser of the CC Sabathia/Ivan Nova competition for fifth starter.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Mitchell said. “But it’s tough right now.”