Yankees place CC Sabathia on DL, send down Herrera, call up German and Cessa

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, CC Sabathia is heading to the disabled list. Joe Girardi confirmed the move while speaking to reporters this afternoon. It’s a Grade II left hamstring strain. Yuck. Domingo German has been called back up to replace Sabathia on the roster. The ten-day rule doesn’t apply to him since he’s replaceing a player on the disabled list.

The Yankees did not provide a timetable for Sabathia’s return, but the Grade II strain ensures he will be out a while. We’re not going to see him until after the All-Star break. That really bites. Sabathia, who has a 3.46 ERA (4.11 FIP) this season, suffered the injury throwing a pitch earlier this week. The same injury, a Grade II left hamstring strain, ended his season early in September 2013.

German made his big league debut Sunday afternoon and tossed 2.2 scoreless innings to close out the blowout win. Trackman clocked his average sinker at 98.2 mph. Yowza. I’m sure there’s some “first MLB appearance” adrenaline in there, but 98 mph isn’t uncharted territory for German. He can really bring it. German came over in the Nathan EovaldiMartin Prado trade.

In addition to the Sabathia and German moves, the Yankees have also optioned Ronald Herrera and called up Luis Cessa. Girardi told Erik Boland that Cessa is going to replace Sabathia in the rotation, though they haven’t decided whether he’ll start Saturday or Sunday. Sunday is Sabathia’s turn, though starting him Saturday would give Masahiro Tanaka an extra day. I’m a Cessa fan. I’m happy.

In the short-term, man, the Yankees are really going to miss Sabathia. He had an ugly four-start stretch back in May, but otherwise he’s been rock solid all season, and especially of late. Four earned runs allowed in his last six starts and 36.1 innings! With Tanaka doing his best Javy Vazquez impression, Sabathia steadiness was much appreciated.

Greg Bird still doesn’t feel right, Yankees have “pulled the plug” on his rehab

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

7:33pm ET: The Yankees announced Bird has been pulled off his rehab assignment with a right knee contusion. He fouled a pitch off his shin the other day, but was fine and stayed in the game. I wonder if that’s just a mistake and they meant a right ankle contusion? Either way, it’s a setback.

6:27pm ET: Greg Bird‘s rehab has hit a snag. Brian Cashman told Erik Boland that Bird still doesn’t feel well, so they have “pulled the plug” on his rehab. The issue is still with his ankle, not his surgically repaired shoulder. Bird has been out since early May with a bone bruise in the ankle, an injury he originally suffered in the final week of Spring Training. He fouled a pitch off the ankle and tried to play through it in April.

Bird has been on a minor league rehab assignment the last two weeks, going 9-for-38 (.237) with 12 walks and four strikeouts in 12 games. The numbers don’t mean much though. How does he feel? How does his swing look? Does his have his lower half working right? Those are the important questions, and no, apparently he doesn’t feel good.

Joe Girardi said earlier today Bird will see a doctor, and hopefully that brings good news. Maybe it is nothing more than normal “hey you’re playing baseball everyday again” soreness. It’s not easy to be optimistic though. The Yankees have a pretty terrible history with bone bruises (see: Teixeira, Mark) and Bird himself has had plenty of injury issues in his career, even going back to his days in the minors.

Unless the doctor visit brings good news, the Yankees are going to have to start thinking about trading for a new first baseman. Chris Carter has worn out his welcome and Tyler Austin probably isn’t good enough to start at first base for a contender. Playing Matt Holliday there full-time doesn’t seem like a good idea at his age either.

I suppose the good news is the Yankees are in first place despite getting nothing from first base, a premium offensive position. They shouldn’t bank on that continuing though. If Bird is going to miss more time, they have to start thinking about an upgrade if they plan on giving themselves the best possible chance to contend. They can’t keep waiting for Bird. Not at this point.

Update: CC Sabathia exits start with hamstring strain

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

11:59pm ET: Sabathia has a left hamstring strain, the Yankees announced. Here’s video of the injury. I imagine Sabathia is heading for tests to determine the severity of the strain.

11:35pm ET: CC Sabathia left tonight’s start after four innings with an apparent left leg injury. He grabbed at his hamstring between pitches at one point, though he did stay in to complete the inning. Sabathia walked off the field gingerly and headed to the clubhouse.

The Yankees have been really fortunate with the health of their starting pitchers so far this season. They used a sixth starter for the first time this past weekend, and that was only to give the struggling Masahiro Tanaka an extra day, so he wouldn’t have to face the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.

I suppose the good news is the problem is not with Sabathia’s right leg, with the troublesome knee. He’s had all sorts of problems with his right knee over the years. Whatever it is, hopefully it’s minor. The Yankees have not yet provided an update on Sabathia, so stay tuned.

Update: Jacoby Ellsbury suffers concussion crashing into wall

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

8:24pm ET: Ellsbury has indeed suffered a concussion, the Yankees announced. He also has a sprained neck. Ellsbury will presumably be placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list, meaning he’ll have to be cleared by MLB’s doctors before he can be activated. Mason Williams, Clint Frazier, and Dustin Fowler are the Triple-A outfielders. Williams is the only one on the 40-man roster, though the Yankees do have an open spot.

7:38pm ET: Jacoby Ellsbury exited tonight’s game after crashing into the center field wall making a catch on the very first pitch of the game. Here’s video. Trainer Steve Donohue looked at him and Ellsbury did stay in the game to complete the inning. He was removed in the second, however. His lineup spot did not come up in the bottom of the first.

Earlier this season Ellsbury missed one game with a pinched nerve in his elbow after another wall-crashing catch. This time they were focused more on his head and neck, so obviously the concern is a concussion. Ellsbury has never had a concussion in pro ball. The internet tells me he suffered one crashing into the wall making a catch in college though.

Ellsbury, 33, came into the game hitting .281/.349/.422 (113 wRC+) with four home runs and eight stolen bases in 38 games this season. The Yankees have a really great fourth outfielder in Aaron Hicks, plus several great outfield prospects in Triple-A, though losing Ellsbury would still stink. The more good players, the better.

The Yankees have not yet released an update on Ellsbury, so stay tuned.

Yankees place Aroldis Chapman on 10-day DL with shoulder inflammation

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So it turns out there was something physically wrong with Aroldis Chapman these last few days. Earlier this morning the Yankees announced they have placed their closer on the 10-day disabled list with left rotator cuff inflammation. Marly Rivera says Chapman had an MRI yesterday morning, which showed no structural damage.

The plan, according to Brian Cashman, is to shut Chapman down for two weeks, then reevaluate things. Chapman first told the Yankees he was experiencing discomfort Friday, after his rough outing against the Astros. He is six weeks into a five-year contract worth $86.5M, so you can be sure the Yankees are going to play it safe here. They’re not going to push him hard and risk a more serious injury.

Fortunately the Yankees have a top notch reliever to replace Chapman in the ninth inning in Dellin Betances. I know Dellin struggled a bit late last season, but as long as he’s healthy, I am 100% confident in him closing games. Tyler Clippard will presumably take over the eighth inning and Adam Warren the seventh. That’s usually how Joe Girardi rolls.

Of course, having a great closer replacement doesn’t mean losing Chapman won’t hurt. The Yankees are now short a high-end reliever and their bullpen will suffer because of it. Bullpen depth was an undeniable strength for the Yankees in the early going this season. That takes a hit now. Hopefully they can weather the storm until Chapman returns.

Starting with his outing in Boston two weeks ago, Chapman hasn’t looked quite right the last few times out, especially so in his last two appearances. His velocity was fine — Chapman has averaged 99.6 mph and topped out at 101.4 mph this month — but his command was non-existent and nothing seemed to be coming easy. The shoulder issue would explain that.

It’s worth noting Chapman has a history of relatively minor shoulder injuries. He missed a little more than a month with shoulder inflammation at midseason in 2011, and he also missed a few games with shoulder soreness in 2012, 2014, and 2015. None of those required a trip to the disabled list. A history of shoulder problems, even minor ones, doesn’t exactly make me feel any better.

The Yankees called up Chad Green from Triple-A Scranton to fill Chapman’s roster spot. He’ll presumably take over as the long man, allowing Warren to slide into a more traditional setup role. I have to think Jonathan Holder will see some increased responsibility with Chapman out as well. He might share seventh inning duty with Warren. We’ll see.

Thoughts following Greg Bird’s trip to the disabled list

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The baseball gods just won’t let the Yankees have all their young players at once, huh? Now that Gary Sanchez is inching closer to a return, it’s Greg Bird‘s turn to hit the disabled list. The Yankees placed him on the 10-day DL yesterday with a bone bruise in his right ankle. He’s been dealing with it since fouling a pitch off the ankle in Spring Training. Sigh. Anyway, I have some thoughts on all this.

1. The Yankees really Mets’d this one, huh? Kinda hard to believe they let Bird play on the sore ankle all those weeks — Joe Girardi said yesterday Bird went for an initial MRI when the Yankees returned to New York for their first homestand a few weeks ago, and that MRI showed the bone bruise — given, well, everything. The fact Bird is one of their prized young players. The fact he’s coming off major shoulder surgery. The fact Mark Teixeira had a bone bruise in his shin a few years ago that didn’t get better until surprise! They found a fracture. (To be fair, 24-year-old Greg Bird presumably heals quicker than 35-year-old Mark Teixeira.) What if Bird changed his hitting mechanics to compensate for the ankle injury and re-injured his shoulder? Players can change their swing or delivery or whatever to compensate for an injury and not even realize it. Remember when he tried to make that leaping catch of a line drive Monday? What if he came down on the ankle the wrong way? Oy vey. Bird hasn’t been running well for weeks now — I first mentioned it in the game recap on April 15th — which was the clearest sign the ankle wasn’t 100%. I can’t help but wonder whether this would all be in the past already had Bird been placed on the disabled list when the first MRI showed the bone bruise.

2. This stupid nagging ankle issue has turned into a stupid disabled list stint so I decided to find the stupid foul ball in the stupid Spring Training game that led to the stupid injury. Both Bird and Girardi said it happened in Clearwater on March 30th, literally the last Grapefruit League game of the spring. Bird drew a walk in all three trips to the plate that day and yep, he fouled a ball off his right foot. It was the first pitch of his third and final at-bat. To the action footage:

greg-bird-ankle

So that’s how all this started. That foul right there. Bird took a walk around the umpire and got right back in the batter’s box. The trainer didn’t come out or anything. There was no indication he was hurt! Bird finished the at-bat, drew his third walk, then was removed for a pinch-runner because all the regulars were being taken out of the game at that point. The Yankees played the exhibition in SunTrust Park the next day and Bird not only played in the game, he hit a home run. Again, no indication he was hurting. Blah. So anyway, that’s where all this started. A seemingly innocuous foul ball to the foot that looked like all those other foul balls to the foot we see during the season.

3. I absolutely buy Bird’s struggles at the plate being a result of the ongoing ankle injury. Maybe the ankle isn’t the only reason for tough year at the plate, but I do believe it’s a significant contributing factor. Hitting starts from the ground up. If you don’t have a solid base under you, you’re not going to be able to hit properly, and clearly Bird’s lower half was compromised. One of the YES analysts — I forget who, maybe David Cone? — recently pointed out Bird has been getting his front (injured) foot down late, which is why he’s been late on so many fastballs. His timing has not even been close to where it needs to be the last few weeks. Almost every swing looks like a defensive swing, like he’s just praying to make contact rather than looking to drive the ball. Hopefully once the ankle clears up, Bird can get his legs underneath him again and get locked back in at the plate. Spring Training was a reminder that when he’s right, Bird can be a really productive hitter. As long as he’s healthy, of course.

4. Let’s not discount the mental break Bird will get. The Yankees said he’ll be shut down entirely these next 7-10 days. He’s not going to travel with the team and will instead stay off the ankle as much as possible. Once the Yankees get back from the upcoming road trip, they’ll reevaluate him and determine the next step. Bird’s body language has been awful the last few weeks. He’s usually a pretty enthusiastic guy. Chatty at first base, always smiling, that sort of stuff. We haven’t seen that Greg Bird lately. It’s been a while since he’s cracked a smile on the field. You can tell the slump — Bird is 6-for-60 so far (ahhh!) — has started to weigh on him. How could it not? Bird has never not been a dominant hitter. He was the man all throughout high school and the minors, and he produced right away when he first got called up two years now. Now suddenly he was close to an automatic out. That had to be taking a toll mentally. The disabled list stint will allow him to clear his head for a bit and stop worrying about baseball. A clear head and a healthy ankle could do wonders whenever Bird returns to the field.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

5. Not surprisingly, Girardi confirmed Chris Carter will take over as the regular first baseman while Bird is absent. This is exactly why they signed Carter: Bird insurance. Everyone just kinda assumed that if Bird did miss time, it would be due to his shoulder or being rusty. Not his ankle. I’ve seen folks talk about playing Austin Romine or even Aaron Hicks at first base and … no. Just, no. Let’s not overthink things here. Play the first baseman who hit 41 home runs last year at first base. With any luck the regular at-bats will get Carter going and give the Yankees yet another power threat. He’s already had his Signature Yankee Moment™. Now we’re just looking for a little consistency and the semi-regular dinger. The Yankees don’t need Carter to carry them. Just contribute more than Bird, which isn’t exactly a high bar to clear.

6. That said about Carter, are you ready to see Matt Holliday at first base? It’s totally going to happen at some point soon. The Yankees have a six-game road trip through a pair of NL cities coming up, and following the series in Pittsburgh, Girardi said he wants to get Holliday more involved. “I’ll see what we do on the next trip,” he said to Dan Martin at the time. I have a hard time thinking Holliday will sit out an entire six-game road trip, especially one bookended by off-days. That’d be eight straight days on the bench. Nope. Not happening. Girardi said yesterday he’s willing to use Holliday at first even though he didn’t play the field at all during Spring Training — he has been taking grounders at first pretty much every day, for what it’s worth — and I’m betting it happens at least once during the upcoming road trip. Heck, it might happen all six games. Get three at-bats out of him, then sub him out. We’ll see.

7. Remember Tyler Austin? He came up last year and hit some dingers. It was cool. Austin broke a bone in his foot with a foul ball very early in Spring Training and he hasn’t been heard from since. At the time of the injury, The Yankees said he’d need at least six weeks to heal before resuming baseball activities. That was ten weeks ago. I suppose Austin could be getting ready and playing in Extended Spring Training games down in Tampa, but who knows? The Yankees haven’t said anything. It sure would be nice to have Austin right now. He’d give the Yankees another option at first base. Tough break for the kid. This would have been a great opportunity for him.

Yankees place Greg Bird on 10-day DL with ankle bruise, call up Rob Refsnyder

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

Greg Bird will finally get a chance to rest his achy ankle. Earlier today the Yankees announced they have placed their young first baseman on the 10-day disabled list with a bruised right ankle. Joe Girardi said Bird had an MRI a few weeks ago and another one today, and both showed a bone bruise that is healing slowly. Rob Refsnyder has been called up from Triple-A Scranton to fill the roster spot.

“In watching him yesterday, and talking to (hitting coach Alan Cockrell) about his work yesterday, I just didn’t feel like there was a lot of explosion in his lower half,” said Girardi. “We talked after the game. We felt that we just need to give this some time … He just felt like his ankle wasn’t working properly. Yesterday was the first day I really, really noticed it.”

Bird, who missed all of last season with shoulder surgery, has been playing through soreness since fouling a pitch off the ankle at the end of Spring Training. He sat out a few games early in the season to rest the ankle and also get over an illness. Girardi said Bird will be shut down completely for 7-10 days — he won’t make the road trip with the Yankees — and they’ll reevaluate him after that.

“I know what I am capable of and those guys know, too. It’s frustrating but you got to deal with it,” said Bird to George King yesterday. “I have been open to them and I am playing and giving my all … (The ankle) is slowly getting better. When I am playing I am playing.”

Bird had a monster Spring Training and is off to a dreadful start to the regular season, hitting .100/.250/.200 (35 wRC+) with 30.6% strikeout rate in 72 plate appearances. His timing seems completely off at the plate — the bone bruise is in his right ankle, his front ankle when hitting, so it could have an effect on his leg kick — and he hasn’t looked 100% when running either.

Letting Bird play through the ankle soreness perhaps wasn’t the team’s best idea, especially given what happened with Mark Teixeira and his bone bruise two years ago. Hopefully this disabled list stint does the trick. The ankle gets to heal, Bird gets a bit of a mental break, then he can go rake in a few minor league rehab games before rejoining the Yankees.