On the surface, the Yankees appear to be at a huge disadvantage heading into the biggest weekend of the season. The Blue Jays are adding a standout pitcher, Patchogue-Medford's Marcus Stroman, fresh off successful rehab, and the Yankees have lost one, Nathan Eovaldi, heading to two weeks of rest and heaven knows what after that.
That is just the sort of thing the Yankees would like everyone to believe. Their long suit this year has been dealing with a short hand, their strength has been coping with weakness. They did not look like a playoff team in spring training, and in a lot of ways they still don't. Tuesday alone, their general manager and manager both wondered if they will see Eovaldi -- their best pitcher for most of the summer -- or Mark Teixeira -- their erstwhile Most Valuable Player candidate -- again this regular season, or beyond.
Still, no sense of doom hovered over Yankee Stadium before their 2-1 loss to the gasping Orioles. Brian Cashman would not even classify the situation as a challenge as he spoke to reporters about Eovaldi's inflamed elbow. What it is, the general manager said, is "part of it."
"It" is the process of making it through the long slog from March to October. Slumps happen. Guys get hurt. Big deal. You tap the next player on the shoulder and you move on.
"Unfortunately, you've got to expect the twists and turns of injuries in a long season. You deal with it. He's down and somebody else is going to get another opportunity or other people are going to have to step up," Cashman said. "That's just the way it works out. Our guys have been resilient. We've battled all year and they'll keep doing that. The names may have changed but the effort has been consistent."
The difference this time is that the Yankees do not have an obvious replacement for Eovaldi, the flamethrower who might or might not have done himself harm by throwing so many splitters. The team's season is afloat because Greg Bird has been such a positive fill-in for Teixeira, and Luis Severino has been a revelation for a rotation that has needed continual patching.
Adam Warren is the most likely candidate to start, allowing the club to maintain its six-man rotation and give Masahiro Tanaka and the rest decent rest. Warren actually was a better starter than CC Sabathia but has not gone a starter's distance in a while. "I haven't thrown more than 30, 35 [pitches] the last couple weeks, so I think 60 is probably the most," Warren said yesterday, speculating on his workload. "They always told me when they sent me to the bullpen it may not be permanent, but at this point of the season, I felt like I was in the bullpen for good this year." With a grin, he added, "But I've always wanted to be a starter."
It is hard to imagine Eovaldi can build up enough arm strength to start before the end of the month. "I just felt like it's the worst timing that it could be. But we'll play it by ear," he said.
The Yankees have been playing it by ear all year. Sometimes they get splendid pitching performances such as Tanaka's on Tuesday night, allowing only one run and collecting 10 strikeouts in eight innings. Mostly, they are in tune because of their power, especially from Alex Rodriguez and their bullpen. Chasen Shreve's failure in the ninth, allowing a leadoff homer to Chris Davis, was an aberration.
Losses like that are part of it. This one just gave the Yankees something else from which to bounce back.