Rehab progress means Greg Bird has a chance to be a factor in September


For all intents and purposes, this is a second straight lost season for Greg Bird. He missed the entire 2016 season following shoulder surgery — he was able to squeeze in an Arizona Fall League stint — and this year he’s been sidelined since early May with ongoing ankle issues. Since the end of the 2015 season, Bird has only 263 plate appearances to his credit, and that includes Spring Training.

At this point the hope is Bird can return from ankle surgery at some point this year and maybe give the Yankees a nice shot in the arm down the stretch. The Yankees won’t push him too hard after the way things have gone this season, though it’s starting to look more and more likely Bird will return this year. He’s already started hitting just two weeks out from surgery. From Dan Martin:

“I played catch for the first time (Monday) and hit for the first time (Tuesday),” said Bird. “It felt great. I already feel the difference in a lot of things that I’ve done since the surgery and that makes me believe I could be back soon — especially with the stitches out and the (incision) is good … The discomfort is gone. Now it’s about getting ready to play again, getting in the weight room and on the field. I have to get used to it — and get used to not having the ankle in the back of my mind.”

Brian Cashman of course downplayed Bird’s chances of returning by the end of this month — “It’s hard to predict with this kind of injury because it’s unusual. But he’s progressing,” said the general manager to Martin — because that’s what Brian Cashman does. This isn’t the first time Bird has started working his way back this year, remember. He was on a rehab assignment for a few weeks in June before being shut down again.

The Yankees went out and acquired Todd Frazier essentially for first base depth even though he’s playing third, and I’m glad they did because I didn’t want the Yankees to be in a position where they were counting on Bird coming back. Anything he gives them this year is gravy as far as I’m concerned. In fact, as I said the other day, I’d like to see the Yankees bring in another bat. I don’t expect it to happen, but I’d like to see it.

So perhaps Bird can be that bat, even if he doesn’t return until sometime after rosters expand on September 1st. He’s had a very long layoff and needs to get his timing down, so his minor league rehab stint could run the full 20 days, but the fact Bird is already hitting and doing baseball stuff suggests his season is not over. The top priority here is next season and getting Bird ready for 2018. But, if he can make it back in September, the Yankees will be that much better.

Starlin Castro’s ongoing hamstring issues could push Yankees into August trade market

(Stephen Brashear/Getty)
(Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Thanks to a series of hamstring injuries, Starlin Castro has played in only six of the Yankees’ last 30 games. He spent two weeks and change on the disabled list in late-June and early-July, then a week after returning, he went back on the disabled list with another hamstring strain. Supposedly it’s two different strains. The second wasn’t a reaggravation of the first. Whatever. Point is, Starlin is hurt, and he’s not coming back anytime soon.

“He is still a ways away. He still hasn’t run,” said Joe Girardi to Dan Martin yesterday when asked about Castro’s status. The Yankees and Castro are in wait and see mode. They have to give him time to heal and then get him ready for big league games, which is a long-ish process. If Starlin were to start running on, say, Friday, he’s still roughly two weeks away because he has to run, take batting practice, get in rehab games, etc. That’s not good.

With Castro out for the foreseeable future, the Yankees have two options here. One, they could stick with the status quo and keep running Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade out there. Torreyes played well as the fill-in shortstop in April and he’s playing well right now, so going with him seems fine. At the same time, he played an awful lot earlier this month, and it got old quick. Wade? I like him a lot, though he has looked overmatched at times. (Many times.)

Option two is go out and get another infielder, which is tough to do now that the trade deadline has passed. Maybe the Yankees should have signed Danny Espinosa after the Angels released him and before he hooked on with the Mariners two weeks ago? Eh. He can really play defense, but he also hit .162/.237/.276 (39 wRC+) before being released and is a .207/.282/.354 (70 wRC+) hitter in his last 1,800 plate appearances dating back to 2013. I’m not going to complain about missing out on Espinosa. I was just throwing a name out there.

An August waiver trade to add a stopgap second baseman is certainly possible, though I get the sense the Yankees aren’t eager to trade a prospect and/or take on salary for a stopgap. Castro is going to be the second baseman when he returns. Potential August waiver trade candidates include Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, Jed Lowrie, and Brandon Phillips, so there will be infielders available. It’s just a question of whether the Yankees want to trade prospects or (more realistically) take on their salary to facilitate a trade for a stopgap player.

My guess is the Yankees are going to stand pat and roll with Torreyes and Wade for the time being. If Castro’s hamstring strain continues to linger or he suffers a setback, then maybe they’ll look to make a trade. Their top two middle infielders in Triple-A right now are Cito Culver and Donovan Solano, so yeah. The Yankees can’t afford to lose anyone else. Perhaps a small depth trade for a non-40-man journeyman is coming. Another Solano type.

So far the Yankees have not just gotten by without Castro these last few weeks, they’ve thrived. They’ve been able to climb back into first place. They added reinforcements at the trade deadline and Torreyes has shown he can be quite productive in short bursts. The ability to get the bat on the ball and run like hell can go a long way. The Yankees are at their best with healthy Castro though, so over these next few weeks, the priority will be getting him healthy for the stretch run. And if his recovery takes longer than expected, the Yankees may to look for some last minute help.

Update: Romine leaves with bruised hand, x-rays negative

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

6:17pm ET: Following the game Joe Girardi said Romine is unlikely to be placed on the disabled list, though he figures to miss a few days. Gary Sanchez will have to carry the workload behind the plate until then.

4:40pm ET: Good news: x-rays came back negative. Romine has a bruised left hand. The Yankees were looking at the possibility of scrambling for a backup catcher all of a sudden. Here’s the play:

3:51pm ET: Austin Romine exited this afternoon’s game after taking a pitch to the top of the left hand. It swelled up instantly. Romine did stay in the game to run the bases, though he was removed after the inning. I’m sure he’s heading for x-rays and all that. There are so many small, easy-to-break bones in your hand.

It’s worth noting Kyle Higashioka is currently on the Triple-A disabled list with a back injury, meaning veteran journeyman Eddy Rodriguez is the No. 3 catcher on the depth chart. The Yankees would need to add him to the 40-man roster to call him up should Romine need to go on the DL. Also, the trade deadline is tomorrow, so the Yankees could perhaps swing a minor deal for a catcher, if necessary.

The Yankees have not released an update on Romine, though they usually get the x-ray results pretty quickly. We should learn if there’s a fracture reasonably soon. Stay tuned for any updates.

Update: Michael Pineda will have Tommy John surgery

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Monday: Pineda will indeed have Tommy John surgery, the Yankees announced. He was examined today by Reds team doctor Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who agreed with the initial diagnosis and recommended surgery. Pineda will go under the knife tomorrow. Kremchek will perform the procedure in Cincinnati.

Friday: The rotation situation just got a little more dire. Brian Cashman announced this morning that Michael Pineda has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and Tommy John surgery has been recommended. He is going for a second opinion, which every pitcher does in this situation. Either way, Pineda’s season figures to be over.

This is the second straight year the Yankees have lost a starting pitcher to a blown out elbow in the second half. Last year Nathan Eovaldi shredded his elbow in August and needed his second career Tommy John surgery. I suppose the silver lining here is the timing. The Yankees still have time to act before the trade deadline. They didn’t with Eovaldi.

Pineda, 28, started his Yankees career with a major injury (shoulder surgery) and seems likely to end it with another major injury (Tommy John surgery). He is due to become a free agent after the season and the timing of this injury is just terrible for him. It’s going to cost him millions. He’s looking at a short-term “rehab and prove yourself” deal now.

Since coming over from the Mariners, Pineda has thrown 509 innings with a 4.16 ERA (3.65 FIP) for the Yankees. That includes a 4.39 ERA (4.65 FIP) in 96.1 innings this season. The Yankees came out ahead in the trade because Jesus Montero was so awful for Seattle, though Pineda never did become the top of the rotation force they envisioned.

As for the rotation going forward, Cashman said Luis Cessa will make a start next week and Chance Adams is an option as well. I imagine pitching well in Sunday’s doubleheader would buy Bryan Mitchell another shot too. Pineda hasn’t been great, but losing pitching is never good. I feel terrible for the guy considering the timing too. We’ll always have those strike ’em outs, Big Mike.

Greg Bird will have surgery on troublesome right ankle


Greg Bird will finally have his troublesome right ankle fixed. Joe Girardi said this afternoon Bird will have surgery tomorrow after seeing yet another specialist earlier today. The surgery comes with a six-week rehab timetable, and it’s possible he will return sometime in September.

Bird has been out since early May with soreness in the ankle stemming from a foul ball back in Spring Training. He’s received multiple cortisone shots and seen several specialists, and apparently the diagnosis is inflammation in his os trigonum, which is an extra bone in his ankle. The surgery will shave down (or remove) the bone.

Prior to the injury Bird hit .100/.250/.200 (29 wRC+) with one home run in 72 plate appearances. He didn’t look comfortable at the plate at all and his timing was way off. Bird hit the snot out of everything in Spring Training, then all of a sudden he looked lost. An ankle injury would explain it. You need a solid base underneath you to hit.

With Bird definitely sidelined for most of the second half, the Yankees could pursue one of the rental first base options on the trade market. Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier, Lucas Duda … there are others out there too. They could also stick with the Ji-Man Choi/Garrett Cooper platoon. We’ll see.

Bird missed the entire 2016 season following shoulder surgery, so he’s going to miss close to two full seasons between the shoulder and ankle. That’s rough. He’s missing basically his entire age 23 and 24 seasons. That’s a lot of development time at a crucial age Bird won’t get back. Hopefully he comes back healthy and strong after surgery.

Update: Fowler exits game with ruptured patella tendon


12:08pm ET: Fowler suffered an open rupture of the right patella tendon, the Yankees announced. He’s having surgery tonight and his season is over. Brutal. Absolutely brutal. I feel awful for the kid. At least he’ll collect big league pay while on the disabled list.

11:24pm ET: Dustin Fowler exited tonight’s game, his MLB debut, in the first inning after crashing into the side wall in foul territory. He was chasing after a fly ball and hit the wall at close to full speed. Fowler tried to walk it off, but he crumbled to the ground and had to be carted off the field. They were looking at his right knee. Sigh. Here’s the video.

The Yankees called Fowler up earlier today to serve as an extra left-handed bat during these ten games prior to the All-Star break, during which they’re tentatively scheduled to face nine right-handed starters. This was the first inning of his big league career. He hadn’t even had an at-bat yet. He was due to lead off the next inning. The Yankees haven’t announced an update on Fowler, so stay tuned.

Update: Castro exits Monday’s game with hamstring injury

(Jon Durr/Getty)
(Jon Durr/Getty)

9:27pm ET: Castro left the game with a right hamstring strain, the Yankees announced. I imagine he’ll head for tests to determine the severity and all that. Sigh. Rains, pours, etc. etc. Here’s the video.

8:59pm ET: Starlin Castro left tonight’s game in the third inning with an apparent leg injury. He pulled up lame running out down to first base on a ground ball. Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue went out to talk to him, and Castro came out of the game almost immediately. He walked off the field gingerly.

The Yankees welcomed Jacoby Ellsbury back from the disabled list tonight, though they lost Aaron Hicks to an oblique strain yesterday, and they’re still without Greg Bird (ankle), CC Sabathia (hamstring), and Adam Warren (shoulder). Matt Holliday is out with an ongoing allergic reaction issue too.

Castro went into Monday’s game hitting .315/.350/.490 (122 wRC+) with 12 home runs. Losing him for any length of time would be really tough, especially with top prospect Gleyber Torres not an option to replace him. Stay tuned for any updates on Starlin.