One concern for the Yankees offense heading into the season was the condition of Hideki Matsui‘s knees. He had an operation his right knee following the 2007 season, and then missed significant time in 2008 with left knee problems, which led to another surgery in September. This relegated Matsui to DH-only status, as the Yanks fear that playing him in the field could further aggravate his fragile joints. After Matsui had his left knee drained in April, it appears those fears were well-founded.
The latest news is that Matsui has again had his knee drained and will miss the series opener in Oakland. For Hideki to miss any time at this point is a bummer. He’s been on fire since the All-Star Break, hitting .267/.344/.488 with four doubles and five homers in 96 plate appearances (counting Saturday’s 0 for 4, when his knee was clearly bothering him). But considering the timing, it might not be that big an issue.
What’s worked most in Matsui’s favor this year is his ability to hit lefties well. He’s posted a .258/.336/.619 line against them in 110 plate appearances, and has his 10 of his 19 home runs against pitchers of the same handedness. His BABIP is a mere .211, which explains away the low average, but his power against lefties is undeniable. It would appear that there aren’t many lefty starters on the horizon for the Yanks.
Oakland will feature righties Brett Tomko and Vin Mazzaro Monday and Tuesday, so the wise move would be to hold Hideki out of both of these contests, opting to use Eric Hinske in the DH spot instead. While his splits also favor lefties this year, it’s in a small 40 PA sample against them. Over his career Hinske has hit righties far better than lefties, a .804 OPS vs. a .673 mark. Might as well let him face the righties in Oakland’s rotation.
Then on Wednesday, if he’s able, Matsui can enter the lineup against Brett Anderson and the A’s. The day off will help, as the Yanks travel to Boston on Thursday. They will then have a three-game series, in which none of the Sox starters will be lefties — Jon Lester will start Thursday against Toronto. This gives the Yanks flexibility to give Matsui another two straight days off. Or perhaps they’ll opt to give Matsui the entire A’s series off, in hopes that five idle days will clear up all issues with the knee.
In any case, the Yanks have the flexibility to deal with Matsui’s current malady. They can give him as much time off as he needs, because they have a bench deep enough to mask his absence. That they’re playing the last-place A’s helps even further. Losing Matsui’s bat would be a detriment to this offense. Thankfully, it appears that they’ll be able to get him back in the lineup in due time.