The injury bug has bitten the Yankees hard in the last week and while lesser team may have imploded, the Yankees responded by winning three of four games over the weekend against their arch-rival, the Boston Red Sox. Two weeks into the season the Yankees have already been decimated by injuries at the two positions on the roster with the least amount of depth, first base and closer. Mark Teixeira has been out since April 5th with a hamstring injury and David Robertson has since joined him in the DL with a groin injury.
The Yankees have plugged the holes as best they can. Shawn Kelley, a reliever with zero career saves entering the 2014 season, has moved from setup man to the interim closer and responded by compiling three saves so far. Other members of the bullpen have also stepped up into more critical roles, most notably Adam Warren, who has not allowed a run in his team leading six appearances. At first base, Kelly Johnson as moved across the diamond from third base to be the regular first baseman. Francisco Cervelli and Carlos Beltran have also maned the position with limited problems.
The Disabled List threatens to grow in the wake of this weekend’s series with the Red Sox. Backup catcher Francisco Cervelli will be added to the DL before the Yankees next game with a severe hamstring injury suffered in Sunday’s game. In addition, Brian Roberts (back) and Derek Jeter (quad) missed the game and are listed as day-to-day. Catcher Brian McCann had X-rays and an MRI on his hand after being hit with a foul ball. The walking wounded will be given Monday’s off day to recover and then will be reevaluated before the Yankees first taste of interleague play in 2014 against the Chicago Cubs. If necessary, the Yankees may add them to the DL or be forced to once again play with a very short bench. This may lead to more players playing out of position like we saw on Sunday when Carlos Beltran was forced to relieve Cervelli at first base. Cervelli was playing first for the second time his career, the first time coming earlier in the week, and Beltran played the position for the first time in his 17 year career.
The construction of the current 40 man roster does not provide any immediate relief. The Yankees do not have a signle minor league infielder on the current 40 man roster. Any attempt to add Scott Sizemore or Russ Canzler or another player would require a subsequent move to clear a spot for them. This could lead to a DFA for a marginal player such as Preston Claiborne or Ramon Flores. Otherwise they would risk losing one of their protected prospects. While the Yankees do not have many blue-chip prospects, they do have several above average ones. In a perfect world, they might be able to swap a few marginal prospects for a better player but teams are loathe to take on another teams scraps.
However, the Yankees have battled through injuries before. Last year was one of the most injury riddled teams in Yankee history, and while they did not make the playoffs, they far exceeded their talent level to win 85 games. This season the Yankees can feel good about their start to the season. They just took three of four from the defending champion Red Sox. They are above .500 and sitting in first place in the AL East. There is a lot of season left, but the Yankees can feel confident that they can overcome the injury bug and return to the playoff in 2014.