Gio Urshela stood at his locker late Sunday night, both legs wrapped in bandages, and repeatedly tried to put on his navy blue sweatpants. After a couple of failed attempts, because he could bend only one knee, Urshela finally gave up, doing the interview with the pants half on.
These days, in the Yankees’ injury-riddled clubhouse, he’s considered lucky.
Lucky because he fouled a ball off each leg, on consecutive pitches, and the pain knocked him to the dirt both times.
He still managed to play for a few more innings and planned to be in the lineup when the Yankees face the Orioles on Monday at Camden Yards.
So what passes for unlucky? That would be Gleyber Torres, who mysteriously vanished Sunday night in the eighth inning of a 7-4 win over the Red Sox that completed a four-game sweep of the defending champs.
It wasn’t until afterward that Aaron Boone revealed that Torres was dealing with a “core issue” and already had been dispatched to the hospital for more tests. If “core issue” sounds familiar, it’s because that was the diagnosis for Luke Voit a few days earlier before further examination uncovered a sports hernia.
Voit still is considering surgery to fix the problem, so we’re not talking ice and Advil here. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Torres also has a sports hernia. There’s plenty of other things that can go wrong with a player’s core, and given the Yankees’ bad moon this season, you’d have to think Torres has a more serious case of it.
One problem that usually springs to mind is an oblique strain, a common injury in baseball and the same affliction that cost Aaron Judge eight weeks earlier this year. Boone refused to go into much detail about Torres’ injury — he declined to say when it actually happened — but he didn’t try to downplay the severity, either. “Not sure” was his level of concern.
If Torres is lost for any significant period of time, the Yankees’ job just got that much tougher, and not simply because of the hole left by the supremely talented 22-year-old. It’s Torres piled on top of all the other Yankees currently on the injured list, a group that just added Aaron Hicks (flexor strain in right elbow) before Sunday’s game and Edwin Encarnacion (fractured wrist) on Saturday.
The Yankees have put 25 different players on the IL this season — Torres would be No. 26 — and somehow have stayed comfortably atop the AL East.
By wiping out the defending champs Sunday despite a mostly Scranton North lineup, the Yankees improved to 33 games over .500 (72-39) and kept an eight-game lead on the Rays.
We were ready to believe Boone & Co. could keep this up after watching them dismantle the Red Sox over the weekend. Even the losses of Hicks and Encarnacion seemed manageable. But if Torres is added to that demoralizing mix, it gets more difficult for the Yankees to stay positive. Not that Boone won’t try.
“It’s been a crazy year in that way,” he said, “with the amount of things that have happened to guys physically. But it’s also been something that’s been a real rallying cry for us. And I think it’s not just brought a level of physical toughness to the room but it’s forced guys to be mentally tough as well. I think it’s part of the hunger that exists with those guys, because they have the mindset of nothing’s going to stop us.”
Nobody in the AL East has, that’s for sure. But we’re getting into August now; losing precious healing time, with October fast approaching, eventually could become problematic.
Boone felt bold enough Sunday to rest DJ LeMahieu, arguably the league’s MVP, to go with the newly recalled Mike Ford as his first baseman. So what happened? Of course Ford delivered an RBI single during the Yankees’ six-run rally in the third inning as their mostly Quadruple-A lineup ripped David Price for nine hits and seven runs before he was pulled.
Kyle Higashioka — the call-up for Gary Sanchez (groin) — already had a pair of doubles by then and Mike Tauchman added a two-run single. Urshela, taking over Encarnacion’s cleanup spot, clubbed a two-run homer to spur the third-inning surge.
But a game like Sunday’s tends to be an outlier. Having to rely on backups to be everyday players is not a successful formula for a championship run.
“You can’t lose everyone,” Boone said, only half-joking.
At this rate, with the Yankees, you have to wonder.