The Yankees' Harrison Bader hits an RBI triple against the...

The Yankees' Harrison Bader hits an RBI triple against the Nationals during the fourth inning of a spring training game on March 1 in Tampa, Fla. Credit: AP/David J. Phillip

 TAMPA, Fla.

The Yankees spent $537 million on free agents this offseason, more than any other team in baseball. But during a 24-hour span of spring training, they were cruelly reminded that no amount of money can shield a roster from costly injuries, and suddenly April isn’t looking as rosy as it did a few weeks ago.

There’s a reason why any plans made in early March are written in pencil.

After prepping to use Aaron Judge in leftfield during the regular season, a move designed to give more time to Giancarlo Stanton in rightfield, the Yankees lost the pivotal middleman to that equation Friday when Harrison Bader was diagnosed with a strained left oblique.

A day earlier, it was announced that Carlos Rodon, the $162 million missing piece for the rotation, won’t be ready for the start of the season because of a mild forearm muscle strain. That development virtually ended the competition for the fifth starter’s job, as both Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt will be needed, further thinning the Yankees’ starting pitching depth.

As for that vaunted bullpen? You can subtract two key arms from the relief corps with Tommy Kahnle (biceps tendinitis) and Lou Trivino (elbow ligament sprain) both on the shelf beyond Opening Day, with Trivino not expected back until some point in May.

“It happens,” general manager Brian Cashman said Friday at Steinbrenner Field.

Cashman has held his job for a quarter-century, so he’s seen enough to keep his blood pressure low in the midst of spring training misfortune. But this has to be stretching the limits of his patience. Losing four members of the Opening Day roster well into April, at the minimum, is not how he drew things up. And we’re not even counting Frankie Montas, whose chronically ailing shoulder ultimately landed him on the surgeon’s table what seemed like minutes after the Yankees got to Tampa.

The worst of this now-questionable quartet figures to be Bader, as the healing timeline for oblique strains is difficult to predict. The Yankees didn’t offer a ballpark return date to go with the diagnosis, but a month to six weeks is the typical estimate, depending on the severity, of course.

The easiest and most effective solution would seem to be using Judge in centerfield — he’s played 101 games there the past two seasons, including 74 starts a year ago — but Cashman didn’t sound thrilled about running him back out there again on a regular basis.

Protecting Judge was the whole point of trading for a Gold Glove centerfielder in Bader last August, and now that strategy could be shot for an extended period.Cashman understandably is wary of pushing his luck with Judge in centerfield, especially coming off that new nine-year, $360 million deal.

Judge handled the assignment fine last season, but that’s not the configuration Cashman had in mind for a repeat. When asked if he’d rather keep Judge in the corner spots, Cashman didn’t hesitate. “Yeah, sure,” he said. “I don’t want to say Judge isn’t a true centerfielder — he showed he is. But it’s better to have him in right and have somebody else that’s capable of playing center. So we’ll see.”

Next year, that very likely could be Jasson Dominguez, aka “The Martian,” the 20-year-old switch hitter who is rocketing up the learning curve. But with his development topping out last season with only five games at Double-A, Dominguez is going to need more time in the minors, regardless of the damage (three homers) he’s doing in the Grapefruit League right now. Aaron Boone admitted as much this past week after Dominguez cranked his latest homer onto Dale Mabry Highway, far beyond the rightfield wall at Steinbrenner Field.

Otherwise, the Yankees have been reluctant to make any firm proclamations about the positions up for grabs, and these recent setbacks are Exhibit A for playing it coy.

Frequently, these situations tend to sort themselves out, and what seems like a surplus one day can quickly turn into a deficit the next. That’s why Boone acts so amused by questions asking him to handicap the shortstop derby or say that leftfield is Aaron Hicks’ job to lose (although Hicks would have to mess up pretty badly to play himself out of that position now).As of now, Hal Steinbrenner’s $292 million juggernaut is taking on water, with leaks popping up in areas that were supposed to be the team’s strengths.

None of the five players whom Cashman traded for at last year’s deadline will be contributors on Opening Day, with four of them injured and Andrew Benintendi a member of the White Sox. The Yankees also haven’t settled on a starting shortstop, seem more comfortable with a closer-by-committee and will have to cross their fingers that former MVP Josh Donaldson, who’s guaranteed nearly $30 million this season, doesn’t continue on his downward trajectory.

And there still are three weeks left before Opening Day. Either plenty of time to sort things out or too many days to worry about staying healthy, depending on your perspective.

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