On the brink of the American League Championship Series, the Yankees have encountered a different kind of injury problem: more healthy players than roster spots.
CC Sabathia (left shoulder) and Aaron Hicks (right elbow) continue to make progress and remain possibilities for the Yankees’ ALCS roster, Aaron Boone said Thursday afternoon.
“We’ll have some tough decisions here over the next 24 hours as we work this out, what kind of makes the most sense, and we’ll try and make a sound one,” Boone said.
One factor was which team the Yankees would be facing; it turned out to be the Astros, who beat the Rays, 6-1, in ALDS Game 5.
The Yankees don’t need to submit an official roster until Saturday morning, about 10 hours before the start of Game 1.
Sabathia’s path to playing again seems easier after he reported to Yankee Stadium on Thursday feeling good after his throwing session Wednesday. All he needs to do to prove he is ready, after a late-season switch to the bullpen and missing the ALDS, is “completing the bounce-back” physically, according to Boone.
Hicks’ case is more complicated. He hasn’t played since Aug. 3 because of the elbow issue, and in early September — after getting a second opinion and considering Tommy John surgery — he was sent home to Arizona, shut down for the season.
“I was chilling,” Hicks said.
And then something unexpected happened. His elbow stopped hurting.
“What happened was I was at home, just sitting on the couch thinking about what I just heard about getting Tommy John or waiting for weeks to see how it goes,” Hicks said. “I was just messing around in the backyard with my buddy, [who wanted] to hit in the cage and I was setting things up for him.
“I was like, man, my arm kind of feels good right now. Just started playing a little light catch . . . It actually started going well. No pain the first day. Threw the second day, sent a video to everybody over here to see what they thought about me throwing when I’m not supposed to throw.”
The Yankees sent him to their minor-league facility in Tampa, where Hicks spent several weeks ramping up his baseball activities. A few days ago, general manager Brian Cashman called Hicks and told him to come to the Bronx.
Now Hicks — whose season was thought to be over — is an option to start in centerfield in Game 1, Boone said. That decision would have a ripple effect around the field, with one likely set of consequences sending Brett Gardner to leftfield, Giancarlo Stanton to DH, Edwin Encarnacion to first base, DJ LeMahieu to third base and Gio Urshela to the bench.
“Aaron Hicks is a very talented player. He’s put himself in a position for consideration,” Cashman said. “I talked to him a few days ago. I said, ‘We’re going to fly you up here. We’re going to get our eyes on you, run you through the car wash. You need to get mentally prepared for being healthy but not active, being healthy and a bench player or being healthy and a starter. All three of those are possibilities.”