Is there anything more dangerous than wearing pinstripes this season? We’d have to put it right up there with snorkeling in the East River, or maybe skateboarding on the LIE.
There’s no other way to say it. Playing for the Yankees is hazardous to a person’s health, and that point was hammered home again Saturday to a sickening degree.
Despite sweeping a doubleheader from the Red Sox by the scores of 9-2 and 6-4, the Yankees suffered a pair of staggering losses to Edwin Encarnacion and Aaron Hicks, who were felled by injuries.
Encarnacion suffered a hairline fracture of his right wrist when he was nailed by a pitch in the first game. Hicks was forced to leave the second game with elbow pain resulting from a throw.
Encarnacion is a confirmed case. He could be out for up to six weeks, which is typical for a broken bone. As for Hicks, the Yankees are waiting on Sunday’s MRI, but the centerfielder didn’t sound very optimistic.
“The thing with elbows, it always makes you nervous,” Hicks said late Saturday night. “I’m going to stay positive until we make a decision.”
Through some incredibly bad luck, an 87-mph slider that didn’t break the way it was supposed to zeroed in on Encarnacion’s back hand. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a pitch like that fails to do any damage — except to the person who throws it, when the ball ends up crushed.
But not in this cursed corner of the Yankees’ season, in which every injury turns into a worst-case scenario.
Encarnacion appeared to be in serious pain immediately after being struck, but he remained in the game, so that figured to be a somewhat encouraging sign. And when Aaron Boone later announced that the X-rays were negative, the Yankees seemed to have dodged a bullet.
But not so fast. Encarnacion had traveled to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for more extensive testing, and roughly two hours after Boone’s briefing, the Yankees delivered the grim news that a CT scan uncovered a fracture.
The team provided no timetable for his return, only that Encarnacion would stay behind for further evaluation when the Yankees hit the road Monday.
“It’s tough,” Encarnacion said. “Things happen.”
More often to the Yankees than most teams, though. With the injuries suffered by Encarnacion and Hicks coming on the heels of Luke Voit’s sports hernia diagnosis Wednesday and Gary Sanchez’s groin strain earlier last month, the Yankees are getting perilously close to answering the age-old question: How many injuries are too many?
Hicks is likely to be the Yankees’ 25th player to land on the injured list this season, which then would be a total of 29 stints overall. Three of their most productive players could end up on the IL within days of each other for an indefinite period of time.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Hicks said. “Guys come back and then somebody else goes down. We’ve been dealing with it all year and we’ve still won. It’s a next-man-up kind of thing.”
Mike Ford was summoned to replace Encarnacion, but you have to figure the Hicks injury finally will open the door for Clint Frazier. The Yankees already were down an outfielder (the perpetually missing Giancarlo Stanton) and theoretically three DHs before Hicks got hurt.
For a team built to make it to the World Series, they’re struggling just to survive the regular season — literally. While the AL East crown seems safe, the Yankees won’t be feeling too great about their October chances if Stanton, Sanchez, Encarnacion, Hicks and Voit aren’t back to full strength for the playoffs.
It’s miraculous (from a baseball perspective) that the Yankees are a season-high 32 games over .500 (71-39) after Saturday’s sweep, with an eight-game lead over the Rays in the division.
Remember when getting rotation help by the deadline felt like a burning issue for the Yankees? That’s already three injuries ago, between Didi Gregorius’ freakish finger strain, Encarnacion’s devastating fracture and now Hicks’ elbow situation.
Brian Cashman probably figured he had enough firepower to cover for his rotation’s deficiencies, and trading for Encarnacion in late June was a brilliant move. As long as he was functioning, anyway.
But now the trade deadline has passed, Encarnacion is out indefinitely and Hicks probably will join him as the Yankees’ depth is stretched to a point that would break most teams.
It remains to be seen just how much this latest round of injuries, piled on all the others, will hurt Boone & Co. in the weeks ahead. They have to leave a mark eventually.
“The next man up has served us pretty well,” Boone said.
At this rate, however, the Yankees are running out of those next men.