The Yankees’ impending trip to London for a two-game series against the Red Sox on Saturday and Sunday has the club contemplating several questions that are out of the ordinary for a baseball team.
One is the matter of time: The Yankees play up to three time zones behind when they face teams on the West Coast; London is five time zones ahead and the Sunday game is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, which could have an impact.
Another is personnel: The Yankees and Red Sox will be allowed a 26th player on the active roster and will bring two other players in case either faces a circumstance in which a roster move is needed
One thing the Yankees apparently won’t be doing is sending pitchers out ahead of the team. Manager Aaron Boone said Masahiro Tanaka will be the starter on Saturday, and he is scheduled to fly with the team after Wednesday's series finale with the Blue Jays. Boone said James Paxton will pitch the team's first game back on Tuesday, July 2, against the Mets at Citi Field, but “he’ll go with us [to London].”
“Hopefully the day off recovery when we get back [on Monday] is just enough,” Boone said.
When asked what measures the Yankees are taking to address playing five time zones ahead, Boone said the club will “try to be proactive.” He said trainer Steve Donohue will address the team about important issues, including “making sure we’re hydrated and those things, talking about sleep and when to try and get that sleep.”
“When we get there, for guys, maybe not going to be right away and trying to get some sleep on the flight if possible,” Boone said. “We’ll try to be vigilant and understand what everyone is kind of going through and try and be on top of it as best we can."
Sleep has become such a major issue for some professional sports teams that they have sleep specialists with whom they consult.
As far as selecting a 26th player and reserves to bring in case a roster move is needed, the Yankees are just starting to drill down on that, Boone said.
It stands to reason that among the three additional players, there will be at least one pitcher and one catcher. In the event that Gary Sanchez or Austin Romine is injured, they would need to have another catcher. That would seem to make Kyle Higashioka a strong candidate to be on the trip.
When Sanchez was on the injured list with a left calf strain in the middle of April, Higashioka was brought up from Triple-A and made four starts behind the plate, going 3-for-15 with two doubles and throwing out three would-be base-stealers.
As for pitching options, Boone said he needs to see how fatigued the relief pitchers on the 25-man roster are at the end of this series with Toronto.
“We’ve been batting it around now for the past 24 hours. Maybe see how the next couple days unfold. That could factor into it obviously a little bit,” Boone said. “We’re starting to zero in on a few guys and what makes the most sense, how to take advantage of that 26th man and trying to protect yourself obviously with the 27th and 28th if something were to come up.”