The Yankees' spring training complex at George M. Steinbrenner Field...

The Yankees' spring training complex at George M. Steinbrenner Field has stood empty through the MLB lockout, but will be bustling with activity Sunday when players report for the new season. Credit: AP/Steve Nesius

TAMPA, Fla. — An MLB manager was speaking on the phone earlier in the week when the topic of injuries and how much of a factor they could be in 2022, especially with a shortened spring training, came up.

"Safe to say," he said, "we’re all scared to death. We are this time of year anyway. But another one [shortened spring training]? Your season can be over before it starts."

It is against that backdrop that the Yankees, who will report for spring training duty Sunday and go through their first official full-squad workout Monday at Steinbrenner Field, will begin their quest to win the World Series for the first time since 2009.

Spring training, is always the time of year that scares teams most. That’s the case whether it’s the usual six weeks or is truncated — such as in 2020, when it lasted three weeks in advance of the COVID-shortened 60-game regular season, or this year, when it will be roughly 3 ½ weeks, the result of the just-ended 99-day lockout.

Players in 2020, pitchers in particular, began dropping almost as soon as Spring Training II commenced that July, and the injuries didn’t really stop.

"I think it’s pretty simple: short spring training," James Paxton, then with the Yankees and now with the Red Sox, said in August 2020 after being put on the injured list with a flexor strain. "We didn’t get enough time going at a lower speed to kind of build up. And now you’re seeing, a few weeks into the season, guys are not fresh anymore and it’s just the tiredness is building up. We don’t have that base that we normally have."

Speaking several weeks ago at the Yankees' minor league complex here — minor-leaguers not on the 40-man roster have been in camp since February — new assistant pitching coach Desi Druschel called the abbreviated spring training and what it could mean in terms of injuries "a huge concern."

"It’s pretty easy to see what happened in [2020]," he said. "It’s easy [in general] to see what happens every year in spring training."

All of the statistics compiled over the years have shown that players — especially pitchers — are disproportionally prone to getting hurt during spring training and in April, the season’s first full month of play.

"In the pitching world, that’s probably objective No. 1 — making sure we’ve got our hand on the pulse there," Druschel said. "If we had injuries figured out, we wouldn’t be having this conversation to begin with. I don’t think anybody has that figured out yet, but I think we’re getting closer. People will have a close eye on it, there’s no doubt about it. It’s certainly a concern for everybody."

During a typical spring training, starters generally are built up so they’re able to throw in the range of 90 to 100 pitches by Opening Day. Yankees director of pitching Sam Briend said in February that number likely will be in the 60-to-65 range in the event of a four-week spring training.

When asked if 28 days is long enough for starters to get ready, Briend said, "In an ideal world, no."

But there is hope within the game that measures will be taken for the season’s first month — something currently being discussed — in the form of expanded rosters that perhaps could curb injuries.

"You never know what causes an injury, right?" Briend said. "But from a lot of the research and the things we’ve seen in the past, the riskiest time of the year is always spring training and the first month of the season. It’s something like over 30% of surgery-inducing injuries happen in that window . . .

"I’d say it’s actually pretty scary. It’s nice to have at least four weeks, and hopefully there’s some roster flexibility with that to be able to make sure that we’re not putting these players at risk."

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