Mark Teixeira resumes hitting and running, could return next week

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Sounds as though Mark Teixeira may be closer to a return than initially expected. Teixeira, who is currently out with cartilage damage in his right knee, has already resumed hitting and running. “I feel so much better,” he said to reporters this afternoon.

Teixeira hopes to take batting practice later this week when the Yankees are in Minnesota. If that goes well, he could play in his first minor league rehab game as soon as next Tuesday, then rejoin the big league lineup as soon as late next week. Optimistic? Sure, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The 36-year-old Teixeira has received a lubrication injection to deal with the pain and he’ll have to continue receiving them throughout the season. The hope is he can return next week and finish the season before having surgery over the winter. The surgery would be season-ending if he had it now.

Teixeira was hitting .180/.271/.263 (48 wRC+) with three homers at the time of his injury, so he wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball. Still, when the Yankees run out a lineup with Chase Headley batting lineup and Didi Gregorius batting fifth like they did today, I’ll happily welcome Teixeira back with open arms.

Chris Parmelee heading for MRI on hamstring injury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

New first baseman Chris Parmelee is heading for an MRI on his injured hamstring, Joe Girardi told reporters following Thursday game. Girardi expects Parmelee to land on the DL. He hurt himself making a stretch at first base. Here’s video of the play:

Parmelee has been with the Yankees since Mark Teixeira hurt his knee last week. He got his first start last night and hit two home runs, then he drove in the game-tying run tonight. It’s not much, but Parmelee made a very nice first impression with his play these last two nights.

The Yankees are running out of first baseman, folks. Teixeira (knee), Greg Bird (shoulder), and Dustin Ackley (shoulder) are all out. Bird and Ackley are done for the season and Teixeira very well might be as well depending on his rehab. Rob Refsnyder has been getting reps at first base, and if Parmelee is out for an extended period of time, the Yankees might have no choice but to call up Nick Swisher.

Yankees place Mark Teixeira on 15-day DL with possible season-ending knee injury

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Earlier today the Yankees placed Mark Teixeira on the 15-day DL with a “right knee articular cartilage tear,” the team announced. He left last night’s game with discomfort in the knee and went for an MRI. Brian Cashman told Chad Jennings that Teixeira may need season-ending surgery. From Jennings:

“The initial effort is going to try to be to treat it conservatively with rest, probably involving injections, and then see how he responds to that,” general manager Brian Cashman said in a phone call this morning. “… If that doesn’t work, then you’re looking at a surgical procedure. If that’s the case, then his season is probably done.”

Surgery could end not only Teixeira’s season, but also his Yankees career. His eight-year contract is up after the season, and while the team will need a backup plan for Greg Bird at first base next year, they could very well go in another direction. For now it seems the Yankees will be without Teixeira for an extended period of time. This doesn’t figure to be a 15-day stint on the DL.

To replace Teixeira on the roster, the Yankees have called up Chris Parmelee — not Nick Swisher — from Triple-A Scranton. Simply put, the team believes Parmelee is better able to help them than Swisher right now. Parmelee has been the more productive hitter with the RailRiders (131 wRC+ vs. 72 wRC+), he’s seven years younger, he’s healthier, and better able to play the outfield if necessary.

Cashman told Jennings the plan is to mix-and-match at first base for the time being. It makes sense to start Parmelee, a left-handed hitter, against righties. Rob Refsnyder or Austin Romine could get the call against lefties. Refsnyder replaced Teixeira at first last night — it was his first game action at the position at any level — and was fine, though he wasn’t tested with many plays.

Teixeira has not hit at all this season. He owns a .180/.271/.263 (48 wRC+) batting line and hasn’t looked anywhere close to snapping out of his slump. It’s been nearly two full months since he last hit a home run. It’s very possible Parmelee and whoever else will give the team more production at first base than Teixeira has this season. They won’t replace his defense though. Teixeira is still all-world with the glove.

Dustin Ackley, who had season-ending shoulder surgery yesterday, was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Parmelee. He’ll be with the Yankees tonight.

Update: Mark Teixeira heading for MRI on right knee

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

8:50pm: Teixeira left the game with right knee discomfort, the Yankees announced. He’s heading for an MRI.

7:47pm: Mark Teixeira left tonight’s game with what looked to be a right knee injury. Nothing obvious happened on the field, but YES showed Teixeira grabbing his knee and talking to the trainer in the dugout during the third inning. The Yankees haven’t announced any sort of update yet.

The Yankees are already without Dustin Ackley (shoulder) and Greg Bird (shoulder), so their first base depth chart is mighty thin. Austin Romine is the backup first baseman by default right now, but with Brian McCann banged up, the team needs him behind the plate. Rob Refsnyder has been working out at first and he replaced Teixeira in the game.

Teixeira has not hit this season at all — he came into this game hitting .181/.273/.265 (49 wRC+) overall, and it’s been nearly two months since his last homer — so the Yankees aren’t going to miss his bat. They will miss his defense though. Teixeira is still a high-end defender at first base. Among the best in baseball. We see it game after game.

The Yankees have Nick Swisher and Chris Parmelee at Triple-A, and while Parmelee is out-hitting Swisher by a decent margin, my guess is the team would go with Swisher should Teixeira miss an extended period of time. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. A healthy and productive Teixeira is the best thing for the Yankees.

Update: Gary Sanchez placed on Triple-A DL with fractured thumb

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

7:12pm: Sanchez has a non-displaced fracture of his right thumb, the Yankees announced. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Sucks.

1:53pm: Top catching prospect Gary Sanchez has a “crack in his thumb,” Brian Cashman confirmed to Shane Hennigan this afternoon. Sanchez is heading to New York for further evaluation. He took a foul tip to the hand during Triple-A Scranton’s game last night.

Sanchez, 23, is hitting .297/.340/.536 (155 wRC+) with six homers in 34 games with the RailRiders this year. He made a one-game cameo with the big league team earlier this month. It goes without saying a thumb injury is a pretty big deal. If you can’t hold the bat or grip the ball properly, you’re kinda useless on the field.

Austin Romine, who has played well in limited time as Brian McCann‘s backup, won’t have to look over his shoulder for a little while now. Sanchez has been waiting in Triple-A and is clearly part of the team’s long-term plans behind the plate. It’s only a matter of time until he begins an apprenticeship under McCann.

For now all we can do is hope the injury is not severe and will only sideline Sanchez for a few weeks or even a few days. He’s a young man who is still working on his defense, and he can’t do that if he’s injured.

Change of Plans: A-Rod to begin rehab assignment tonight, not rejoin Yankees

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Turns out Alex Rodriguez will not rejoin the Yankees tonight after all. Earlier this morning the team announced A-Rod will play in a minor league rehab game with Double-A Trenton tonight. The Yankees had originally planned to activate him from the DL with no minor league time.

“We are not going to waste his at-bats in Triple-A,” said Joe Girardi to George King over the weekend when asked about bringing Alex back without a rehab stint. Joe didn’t say anything about Double-A, but yeah, the team obviously feels the best thing to do is let A-Rod see some live pitching being returning to the lineup.

Rodriguez has been out nearly three weeks now with a hamstring problem. He’s been running the bases and taking batting practice the last few days, but taking batting practice and facing live pitching is not the same thing. Three weeks (or close to it) is a long time to go without facing real pitching.

The Yankees are scheduled to face R.A. Dickey tonight, and a knuckleballer is pretty much the last thing you want a player who hasn’t seen live pitching in nearly three weeks to face. The knuckler could screw up his timing even more. It’s unclear how many rehab games A-Rod will play, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was only one. We’ll see.

Severino should not automatically re-enter the rotation once healthy

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Let’s get straight to the point: the Yankees were counting on Luis Severino to be really good this season. Everyone from Joe Girardi to Brian Cashman to Hal Steinbrenner said one of the reasons they expected the 2016 Yankees to be better than the 2015 Yankees was Severino. They were going to have him for a full season after his strong eleven-start debut a year ago.

Folks were calling Severino the ace of staff before the season got underway and there was even talk about starting him on Opening Day ahead of Masahiro Tanaka. I always thought the instant ace stuff was too much, too soon. Young players often go through growing pains and expecting a 22-year-old with minimal experience to lead the staff of a team trying to contend was very optimistic. Not everyone is Clayton Kershaw.

That doesn’t mean I expected Severino to be bad. In fact, I expected him to be pretty darn good, albeit with some inevitable bumps in the road along the way. ZiPS pegged Severino as a true talent 3.80 ERA (3.85 FIP) pitcher coming into 2016 and that sounded pretty good to me. I probably would have signed up for 175 innings of that before the season. A 22-year-old pitching his home games in Yankee Stadium? That works.

I certainly didn’t expect Severino to pitch this poorly. Not even the most pessimistic folks could have imagined this. One hundred and twenty nine pitchers have thrown at least 30 innings this season, and Severino ranks 127th in ERA (7.46) and 116th in FIP (5.48). Cashman said a demotion to Triple-A was on the table — the Yankees shuffled their Triple-A rotation to make sure Luis Cessa and Severino were on the same schedule — but, before that could happen, Severino got hurt. He left Friday’s start with a triceps strain.

Injuries often explain poor performance and in a weird way Severino’s injury felt like a bit of a relief. It was a possible explanation for his problems. Cashman shot that down though. Following the injury, the GM offered a brutally honest assessment of Severino’s season to date. From Justin Tasch:

“No, no, no,” Cashman said. “His stuff’s not there, bottom line. His arm strength is there, but his stuff is not there. He doesn’t have command of his fastball. He doesn’t have command of his secondary pitches. His changeup and slider have been inconsistent. It’s not health related.”

Cashman confirmed Severino will make a rehab start but would not commit to him stepping right back into the rotation once healthy, and that’s smart. Even if he didn’t leave Friday’s start with an injury, a demotion to Triple-A felt inevitable. It would have been very hard to justify continuing to send the kid out there every fifth day to take a beating.

Severino grabbed at his elbow on the mound Friday and that was scary as hell. These days it’s easy to assume the worst, meaning ligament damage. A triceps strain is not as severe as ligament damage but it’s still not good. Justin Verlander missed two months with a triceps strain just last year. Severino’s strain was termed “mild,” though who knows what that means. Chances are this won’t be a 15-day stint on the DL. Let’s put it that way.

What the injury does is buy the Yankees and Severino some time. Yes, it would be far more preferable to have him healthy and able to pitch, but that’s not an option. Severino has a chance to clear his head a bit — he’ll be shut down a week before picking up a ball anyway — and then be brought back slowly with a throwing program. It’s an opportunity to get back to the basics and fix whatever is wrong.

That “fix whatever is wrong” part is very important. I don’t think Severino should return to the big leagues until those command issues are solved and he’s having more success locating his slider and changeup. If that means he has to go to Triple-A for a few weeks once he’s healthy, fine. I think it’s reached that point with Severino. The Yankees will be getting CC Sabathia back Friday and they have decent enough depth in Cessa and Chad Green.

Teams always have to balance the short-term with the long-term, though the Yankees have been focused more on the short-term over the last 20 years or so. In Severino’s case, they have to take the long-term view and do what’s best for him as a player, because that’s what’s best for the organization. Bringing him back once he’s healthy just because he’s healthy is a wrong move. There has to be improvement in the secondary pitches and command first.

Many young pitchers have gotten lit up early in their careers before finally finding what works for them. Go look at what Roy Halladay and Johan Santana and Zack Greinke did in their first few seasons as a big leaguer. It was ugly. That isn’t to say Severino will become those guys one day, it just means getting there isn’t always easy. Severino is obviously very talented, but right now he has some real flaws, and he shouldn’t return to the big leagues until he shows improvement.