Four games into the season, the Yankees already have nine players on the injured list. That’s a troubling ratio, made even more worrisome by the two headliners added before Monday night’s 3-1 win over the Tigers, a hollow victory akin to putting a band-aid on a broken leg.
Former MVP Giancarlo Stanton is out for an indefinite period because of a left biceps strain, the result of a “funky” swing Sunday against the Orioles’ Dylan Bundy. As for 2018 American League Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar, you may want to sit down for this one.
Andujar suffered what Aaron Boone described as a “small labrum tear” in his right shoulder, a freakish trauma caused by diving back into third base Sunday. Boone tried to put the softest spin on that alarming diagnosis by saying Andujar will be treated conservatively in the next two weeks in the hope that surgery can be avoided — fingers crossed. “There is some optimism he could come back and play,” Boone said.
How ironic that the Yankees passed on Manny Machado, in part, because they were confident about having Andujar at third base, only to lose him on April 1 to a potentially season-ending injury.
Now it’s DJ LeMahieu’s gig, with Tyler Wade — fresh off his Uber ride from Scranton — deputized to take over as the utilityman.
“Guys have got to step up,” Aaron Judge said. “Not only the ones in the lineup but the guys coming up to fill those roles.”
Judge narrowly avoided serious injury himself Monday on a potential game-saving dive in which his left hand, with the ball in the glove, hit the turf, twisting his wrist. The same with Gleyber Torres, who got kicked in the glove by a sliding Jordy Mercer, putting strain on his left wrist. Judge seemed fine, but Torres shook his hand as if dealing with some pain.
Ultimately, both stayed in the game. Then again, so did Stanton and Andujar on Sunday, only to later discover the severity of their injuries.
Andujar’s IL stint wasn’t announced until 30 minutes before Monday’s first pitch, and it initially was presented as a shoulder strain until the more sobering details were revealed after the game.
Sort of fluky stuff. But these afflictions are becoming the new normal for the Yankees, who are either increasingly unlucky or, for whatever reason, not so great lately at keeping their players intact.
In 2018, the Yankees had 20 players on the IL for a combined total of 1,210 lost days, according to Spotrac. Most notable were Gary Sanchez (65 days), Greg Bird (59), Judge (50), Masahiro Tanaka (32), Aroldis Chapman (29), Torres (22) and Didi Gregorius (18).
Despite all that, the Yankees won 100 games. It’s why we weren’t too concerned when the injury bug popped up again during spring training, because the Yankees are talented enough to cover for a few short-term maladies and begin the season with a cushy schedule.
But with two more key players tumbling Monday like pinstriped dominoes, you start to wonder how many eventually becomes too many. And when it comes to injuries like these, we tend to bet the over.
Boone did his best to play down Stanton’s biceps issue — something he tends to do with every Yankees ailment — but the slugger himself wasn’t so nonchalant about it.
“There’s different gauges of things, and when you’re talking about quickness of your swing, you can’t really have too many things bringing that down,” Stanton said. “You can battle through certain things, but not this time.”
The Yankees’ plan is to shut Stanton down entirely for 10 days, then build him back up after that. At least Boone was smart enough not to attach any artificial timelines beyond those 10 days, because the Yankees don’t have a good track record in that area.
Their initial projection for Judge last year — with a chip fracture of the wrist, mind you — was three weeks. It wound up being more than twice that. In Judge’s case, it felt more like wishful thinking than medical science, but the Yankees repeated the mistake in spring training this year when Aaron Hicks was first bothered by a back problem.
Hicks, who had just signed a seven-year, $70 million extension, was expected to miss only a day or two for precautionary reasons. But that soon ballooned to weeks, and Hicks still hasn’t resumed baseball activity. The Yankees also haven’t penciled in Luis Severino or Dellin Betances for anytime soon.
At this rate, Jacoby Ellsbury could be the healthiest Yankee before too long.
The Yankees have 10 players on the injured list:
Giancarlo Stanton (left biceps strain)
Miguel Andjuar (right shoulder strain)
Aaron Hicks (chronic back pain)
Jacoby Ellsbury (hip surgery and plantar fasciitis)
Didi Gregorius (Tommy John surgery, right elbow)
Luis Severino (rotator cuff inflammation)
CC Sabathia (offseason angioplasty, right knee surgery)*
Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement)
Jordan Montgomery (Tommy John surgery, left elbow)
Ben Heller (Tommy John surgery, right elbow)
*Will go on IL after serving five-game suspension.