As the first month of baseball nears its close, the Yankees have suffered through their fair share of injuries. The team has lost its Opening Day right fielder, its third baseman, its back-up third baseman, its second starter and its setup man.
The injuries don’t stop there though. The team’s DH is playing with balky knees and has already had fluid drained once this season, and the All Star catcher is suffering through a period of sore hamstrings. Johnny Damon, meanwhile, refuses to go for an MRI on his left shoulder because he’s afraid of what he might find. (That is, by the way, the reason why Damon was far less effective in 2007 than in 2006 or 2008. He should just get his injury diagnosed and get better.)
Moving deeper through the system, the Yankees are dealing with even more injuries. On a serious note, Ian Kennedy left his start on Monday with numbness in one of his fingers. He underwent tests on Tuesday and is having more done today. That’s certainly a cause for concern. Numbness in a pitcher’s hand could indicate anything from never damage to muscle and ligament damage to an aneurysm. It’s generally never just nothing.
Furthermore, Jason Johnson is out with a partially torn labrum. He will attempt to rehab the injury and doesn’t need surgery. He says his arm has been sore since Spring Training and probably hurt it after attempting a speedy comeback from his eye surgery.
For the most part, Kennedy and Johnson haven’t really been on Yankee fans’ collective radar. Kennedy is less than popular in the Bronx after displaying poor results and what many perceived as an undeservedly arrogant attitude last year. While some bloggers have noted his strong start this season, the Yanks clearly viewed Kennedy as 7th on the starting pitching depth chart.
Johnson, 35 and a veteran of eight Major League teams, was a pure and simple insurance policy. The Yanks signed him to hold down a rotation spot and be that eighth starter. With his injury, either Al Aceves would have to step up and step in or the unimaginable would happen: Kei Igawa would be called in to pitch in the Bronx if another starter goes down.
This medical report, then, is just my way of arriving a baseball truism: There is no such thing as too much depth. When everyone is healthy, the Yankees have a solid Major League bench, a stacked pitching rotation and some promising young kids and cagey veterans waiting in the wings. When people start to go down, the team looks thin indeed.
With Xavier Nady shelved, Ramiro Peña starting at third, with Phil Hughes thrust into the rotation by April’s end, with two empty rotation spots in Scranton, the back end of the Yankees’ depth chart is looking weak indeed. How the Yankees cope with these absences and how the team fills in holes at the bottom of the depth chart may actually speak louder to Brian Cashman’s ability as a GM than the obvious signings of A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira.