Pitching injuries will test Yankees’ depth

Yanks beat O's but four leave game with injuries
Platooning the defense
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The Yankees won last night’s game against the Orioles but lost four players to injury in the process. Clay Rapada‘s viral infection isn’t the end of the world and even if he needs time on DL, the recently claimed Justin Thomas can take his place as the second lefty rather easily. Raul Ibanez has a nice little mark on his right elbow after getting hit by a pitch, but he said he’ll probably be able to play today. With the left-handed Wei-Yin Chen on the bump for Baltimore, Ibanez figures to get the day off anyway.

The injuries to Ivan Nova and David Robertson are potentially much more significant. Nova took a comebacker off his right ankle/foot in the third inning and apparently did more damage fielding a ground ball in the sixth, suffering a contusion and sprain of that right ankle and foot. It’s unclear if he’ll have to miss a start at the moment, but I assume David Phelps will shift back into the rotation if Nova can’t give it a go in five days. That can be problematic because it will shorten the pitching staff, which is already without Mariano Rivera and will likely lose Robertson as well.

The setup man turned closer suffered some kind of rib cage injury during his last appearance on Friday and it lingered through the weekend. Robertson is headed for tests today and almost any kind of oblique issue would result in a DL stint. Those can be very tricky and it’s easy to turn a minor oblique/ribcage injury into a major one if it isn’t given enough time the heal. With Mo already on the shelf, the Yankees can ill afford to lose Robertson for any length of time.

This recent rash of injuries combined with losing Mo and Michael Pineda for the season is really going to test the team’s depth. Phelps is a fine fill-in starter and the trio of Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, and Cory Wade is fully capable of late-inning relief work, but there would still be two pitching spots to fill. Cody Eppley is a logical call-up candidate but is nothing more than a right-handed specialist. D.J. Mitchell could pitch multiple innings and could even spot start for Nova if the Yankees want to keep Phelps in a leveraged bullpen role. Manny Delcarmen is a non-40-man roster bullpen candidate, but I don’t think anyone is clamoring for him.

Obviously losing the starter in Nova is more significant, but the Yankees will have a tougher time replacing a late-inning arm in Robertson. Phelps, Mitchell, and even Adam Warren can spot start with no problem if needed, but it’ll take some time to find a trusted end-game reliever. It’s silly but it’s true, late-inning relievers are in their own little world. The Yankees can always scour the waiver wire and dabble in the trade market if internal solutions are not found and Robertson’s injury is anything that will require more than like, two weeks on the shelf. I really hope it doesn’t come to that.

Assuming tonight’s game doesn’t get rained out, the Yankees will have CC Sabathia on the mound and yet again, they’re going to need innings from their ace. The bullpen, specifically the middle relief guys like Logan and Wade, have been worked hard these last few games and could really use the night off. I mean no warming up, no nothing. Robertson’s probable unavailability will compound the problem, ditto the chance that Phelps will be needed to start for Nova in five days. Every team deals with injuries, but the sheer volume of injuries in such a short amount of time is going to put the club’s pitching depth to work.

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Yanks beat O's but four leave game with injuries
Platooning the defense
  • CountryClub

    What about Whelan? They have to give him a shot, no?

    • Jaremy

      Agreed. Seems like the logical move…

  • Lord Tywin

    The Soriano signing looks better and better with each injury. Imagine if we didn’t have him right now. I have confidence in Wade, Logan and Phelps but nobody else to set up. If we lose Nova and Robertson we lose Phelps to the rotation and the pen is much weaker.

    • Steve (different one)

      This assumes they wouldn’t have picked up another reliever using half of Soriano’s money….

      • Cris Pengiucci

        True statement, however his past experience does give me a littel more confidence than I would have in other relievers (but not really sure who to campare him to that would have been available at less than his contract value. Certainly many, but who would they have nedied up with?).

        • Cris Pengiucci

          give me a littel little

          who would they have nedied ended up

        • Ted Nelson

          I think it was Balfour that Cashman wanted to sign… tried to work out a sign-and-trade to avoid giving up a pick but it didn’t work out. So I don’t know if they would have signed him in the end. In terms of giving up a pick for a reliever, I think they just figured they’d go all in.
          If it was Balfour… he would have provided more last season, but less so far this season. Much cheaper.

          Benoit was another guy signed that off-season. He signed for 3 years, $16.5 million. That seemed like a lot at the time, but he has been better than Soriano so far.

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        I don’t think the $4-5 million per year they could have saved signing a lesser reliever would have really made a big difference to the roster so I’m glad they have Soriano.

  • CountryClub

    I was just gald to hear Nova’s injury was his ankle and not his foot. Foot injuries tend to linger (or worse).

    • handtius

      Actually, It’s the opposite. Ankles usually take more time to heal, from experience…I don’t think nova’s is that bad, but sprains can be the worst, sometime worst then breaking. The sprain has a lingering affect, where a break, when healed, is stronger then before. Either way, the ankle is risky business, tom cruise style.

  • Johnny O

    Do the rain dance for tonight…

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    Wasn’t it yesterday we were talking about finding a prominent role for Phelps.

    There is no such thing as pitching depth.

    • Ted Nelson

      I think it was more what role Phelps would take… Fitting him either before or after Garcia in the bullpen depending on each one’s performance was pretty much a no-brainer.

      The Yankees are using the pitching depth right now.

      • Ted Nelson

        This is why you build depth up in the first place.

        • Manny’s BanWagon

          Thanks for the info. Appreciated as always

  • vince

    isn’t Swisher available?

    • velocitee

      Could try to swing a trade for Chris Davis too

  • mike

    I have no issue giving Garcia a shot in Nova’s spot next time thru, and having Phelps work out of the pen as needed.

    Thats why Garcia is still on the roster – otherwise cut him – especially where Nova hasn’t been altogether much better than Garcia anyway

  • jsbrendog

    QUICK TRADE SANCHEZ FOR CHRIS DAVIS!11!1!111!

    dooooooooooooooooooomed!!!

  • LiterallyFigurative

    If Nova has to miss a start, just use Freddy Garcia (The Long Man). Let Phelps stay in the pen as a two-inning reliever.

  • Dummies Playing With Balls (formerly Rainbow Connection)

    Where’s all the corny deep and thick comments?

  • detroit_yankee

    You can never have enough pitching.

    Imagine where we’d be if Pettitte had not come out of retirement to be a starter again. Here’s hoping the Robertson and Nova recover quickly and the injury bug moves on soon…

  • Duh Innings

    The Yanks should give Phelps the start as he’s already made two starts and make this his last chance to stay in the rotation as he MUST go more than 4 2/3 innings with the pen as shorthanded as it is. If he can’t go at least 5 innings, Garcia should be put back into the rotation.

    I don’t think Phil Hughes is out of the woods yet. If his next two or three starts are bad to so-so, the Yanks should send him to AAA and sign Roy Oswalt ASAP for Sabathia/Kuroda/Pettitte/Oswalt/Phelps then Nova when Nova returns. I think they should send Hughes down before June 1 regardless of what he does the rest of this month because if he sucks after May 31, guess what? The Yanks couldn’t send him to AAA because he could and most likely would veto the move to prevent being under control through 2014 thus losing a year of free agent earnings. If he sucks this year then is good or better next, guess what again? At least a dozen teams would be after his services for 2014. You want him to showcase to other teams for 2014? I don’t. The Yanks should send him down before June 1 so he’s under control through 2014 thus more tradeable because who is trading someone who’s under control beyond next year for a guy signed through next year only like Hughes? The only under control player the Yanks could get from trading Hughes is one who is signed through next year only, or that would be the most likely trade acquisition.

    • Ted Nelson

      Phelps is not going deep into games in part because he’s been in the pen and his arm is not stretched out. You can’t expect a pitcher’s arm to go from 50 pitches to 100 pitches in a 5 day period and have the last 25-50 pitches be good ones. Now that he’s gone back to the pen, I wouldn’t expect him to give you a full start. It’s just not physically likely, and the long-term risk to his arm probably isn’t worth it.

      With Oswalt you have to see how his back is and he probably needs a month or so to get himself ready.

  • BK2ATL

    I’m not understanding the Robertson issue. He’s hurt, but we DO have a qualified closer on the team. Rafael Soriano. Like him or not, he’s got far much more experience in that role than any other option. We just need to move Wade, Logan, Rapada, Garcia around, and maybe bring up Warren, Mitchell and/or Whelan to backfill the Nova and Robertson spots if needed.

    These kids don’t need to be world-beaters. Girardi just needs to get off of his designated inning and matchup crap that’s been flying, and let these pitchers pitch until ineffective. Yes, there are cases (Rapada) where, due to the extreme splits, the LOOGY matchup needs to remain that, LHB only. However in other cases, if a reliever is effectively getting batters out, leave it alone. If the bullpen is missing some key pieces, give the replacements a shot at success.

    This is a specific instance in which our offense needs to carry us, along with CC, Kuroda and Hughes. A-Rod, Teixiera, Cano and Swisher need to hit more consistently right now, as we’ll really need the runs to weather so many key parts being. While not having to worry about Nunez in the field is a positive right now, the negative to that is missing his aggressive approach at the plate and on the bases, esp. with Gardner still out.

    • BK2ATL

      s/h/b “so many key parts being out…”

    • Ted Nelson

      The Robertson issue is a depth issue. If it’s a close game late and 2 of Logan, Wade, and Soriano are unavailable… you’re giving the keys to a kid who has never driven before in a critical spot. If Whelan, for example, responds the way he did when called up last season… the Yankees just lost a game they might win with Robertson or any good reliever available.

      If he’s not deciding on either inning or match-up… how do you suggest he decides who should pitch? If you wait until someone has already become ineffective to remove them, they’ve necessarily hurt the team already… And is constantly exhausting your relievers’ arms the best long-term strategy?

      • BK2ATL

        See, that’s the thing. You have 3-4 potential late-inning bullpen pieces that began the season on the roster in Wade, Logan, Soriano, and Rapada. You already have Garcia and now Eppley for middle relief/long-relief, and possibly Mitchell, Warren, or Whelan just a call away. That’s 7 bullpen arms, not currently including Phelps, who might have to start for Nova. There is plenty of experience out there included with the youth. So I don’t understand your concern.

        However, knowing how Girardi handles things, 4 of the 7 will get the regular work. The others are/will be thrown in for mop-up or emergency duty only, rather than included as some kind of useful piece in the mix.

        If the bullpen rotation is handled properly, with 7 arms out there, there really shouldn’t be a concern for arms tiring out. The question comes down to effectiveness (pitcher) and usage (manager).

        • Ted Nelson

          I’m not hugely concerned and there’s nothing that I could do about it if I was, but I’d much rather have (a healthy) Robertson pitch any given inning than those guys. It’s a worse situation. And the possibility of putting Eppley or Garcia or Mitchell into the 8th inning of a close game is legitimately concerning at the moment. All three certainly have the ability to get the job done, but also the potential to be total disasters.

          “However, knowing how Girardi handles things”

          That’s not how Girardi handles things… it’s how every manager in baseball with a half decent bullpen handles things. And there’s a reason for that. Certain innings are more important than other innings, so it makes sense to have your best pitcher going. Guys can certainly increase their role through performance.
          Are you advocating that in the 8th inning of a 1 run game Girardi should turn to Freddy Garcia or Cody Eppler if Wade is fresh and ready to go?

          “If the bullpen rotation is handled properly, with 7 arms out there, there really shouldn’t be a concern for arms tiring out. The question comes down to effectiveness (pitcher) and usage (manager).”

          Uhh… yeah. It’s not that people are specifically worried about arms tiring. They’re worried about the trade-off between overusing the best relievers and losing games because of the worst relievers. Very roughly… someone elite like Robertson might allow a run every 5 IP, while someone mediocre like Eppley or Rapada or Garcia so far this season might run more in the every other IP to every IP range.

          I don’t really get your point… that it’s not a bad thing arguably their best two relievers are hurt?

  • Fin

    I said in a post before Andy came back that we would see Phelps in the rotation again sooner rather than later and here it is. This is setting up to be an ugly week of pitching. We could see a Phelps start where he cant go 5 because hes not stretched out, or a Garcia start where he cant go 5 becasue he sucks. Then there is no Mo and Probably Roberston for a week or 2 to close out the last couple of innings of games. With all the guys moving up in the bullpen, the back end of that pen to get to Soriano might get lit up like a christmas tree. It can also be ugly when Soriano isnt available. I think this is a good week to not watch Yankee games.

    • Ted Nelson

      Wade and Logan have been their 1st and 3rd best RPs so far this season. I doubt that will last all season, but I also don’t think that they’re likely to get lit up.

  • dalelama

    The Curse of Montero strikes again….

  • dinz

    Hughes is here to stay..