TORONTO — The Yankees mostly avoided the injury bug during spring training until the very end when first baseman Greg Bird went down, requiring surgery on his right foot.
Now it’s Aaron Hicks.
The centerfielder was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a Grade 1 right intercostal muscle strain, suffered Opening Day during one of his four at-bats. Hicks went 2-for-4.
Suddenly, outfield depth, a strength at the start of spring, isn’t such anymore, a situation that in the short term might even have the Yankees giving Aaron Judge some time in centerfield.
Hicks, limited to 88 games last season because of separate DL stints because of a right oblique strain and then a left one, joins Jacoby Ellsbury (right oblique strain) and Clint Frazier (concussion) on the DL.
Ellsbury, eligible to come off the DL Thursday, is rehabbing in Tampa and his schedule there could be accelerated, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, because of the glut of outfield injuries. Frazier has ramped up his baseball activities but hasn’t progressed to rehab games.
The injury means leftfielder Brett Gardner will shift to center. Cashman and manager Aaron Boone said Judge, who played centerfield in college, was a “possibility” there.
“We don’t want to wear him out,” Boone said of the 34-year-old Gardner.
Billy McKinney, who hit just .167 in the spring but did hit five home runs and walked 10 times, was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and started in left Friday. The 23-year-old McKinney flew in from Tampa Friday afternoon and arrived at Rogers Centre at 4:45. McKinney singled in his first at-bat Friday night.
For the 28-year-old Hicks, who argued, unsuccessfully, against the DL stint because he didn’t feel any pain, it was more exasperation.
Hicks spent the winter with a new trainer, working first and foremost on his core.
“It’s frustrating spending the offseason trying to prevent something like this,” he said. “I just want to play.”