What’s next for the Yankees after they were shut out at the trade deadline? A stretch of 19 games in 17 days that will test the pitching depth that Brian Cashman chose not to upgrade on Wednesday.
The Yankees went into Thursday’s day off with the best record in the American League at 68-39 and held a 7 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL East heading into a four-game home series against the third-place Red Sox beginning Friday.
The series includes a day-night doubleheader on Saturday and a Sunday night ESPN game that will allow Alex Rodriguez and Jessica Mendoza to break down the Yankees’ inaction for the entire country.
The Yankees also will host a day-night doubleheader against Baltimore on Aug. 12. Their next day off will come on Aug. 19 — and the following day the Yankees open a rare late-season West Coast trip to Oakland, Los Angeles (to play the Dodgers) and Seattle.
But nobody said it was supposed to be easy. The disappointment about the team standing pat at the deadline that was expressed by Yankees fans so eloquently on Twitter — if Cashman has an account, he may want to stay off it for a few days — is not being felt in the clubhouse or front office.
“This is a damn good roster,” Cashman said on Wednesday, “and it can compete, we feel, with anybody in the game.”
The immediate concern for manager Aaron Boone is finding enough arms to start 19 games in 17 days. With CC Sabathia on the injured list, the Yankees have four starting pitchers in James Paxton, Domingo German, J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka.
Boone will need someone to start (or open) one of Saturday’s games and then someone else from outside the rotation to throw the first pitch on Tuesday. It could end up being the same person, aka wonder opener Chad Green. The Yankees are 8-0 when Green opens this season.
But someone is going to have to fill all of those middle innings between the opener and the bullpen. And the starting foursome needs to continue to get its act together after one of the worst weeks in rotation history on the Yankees’ recent road trip.
Paxton will pitch Friday. German will start one of Saturday’s games. Happ is scheduled for Sunday and Tanaka should face the Orioles on Monday in Baltimore.
Cashman is hoping to have Jonathan Loaisiga back from the right rotator cuff strain that has kept the righthander out since May. Loaisiga has made one two-inning rehab appearance for Double-A Trenton, so it could be a few weeks before he’s ready.
It’ll be longer than that for Luis Severino, who has been out all season with a shoulder injury (since healed) and a different injury to his lat muscle. Severino is supposed to climb on a mound soon, but there is so little time left in the season that Cashman couldn’t say if the team’s one-time ace will be stretched out enough to be a starting option in September. Severino could return as a reliever.
The Yankees are also waiting on Dellin Betances, who has missed the whole season with a shoulder injury. Betances should take less time to get ready than Severino because he’s a reliever. But that has been true since spring training — when Betances’ injury first popped up —with a lack of velocity he initially pooh-poohed — and the free-agent-to-be hasn’t made it back yet.
“The fallback is to look in that room and the players we have and feel really good about those guys,” Cashman said. “Hope that the ones we have that are coming back off the [IL] at some point can come back and join the party and keep this thing rolling.”
The Yankees should get injured position players Brett Gardner and DJ LeMahieu back on Friday. That will help cushion the body blow they suffered on Wednesday when Luke Voit went on the injured list with a sports hernia that could cost him six weeks or more if surgery is needed, according to Cashman.