Andrew Bailey inching closer to return, may join Yankees sooner than we think

(NY Post)
(NY Post)

Sunday night’s game with the Mets was a textbook win for these Yankees. They got an early lead and made it stand up thanks to some stellar defense and an excellent bullpen — five relievers combined to throw 4.2 scoreless and hitless innings to preserve the lead. That’s exactly the kind of game the front office had in mind when they put this club together over the winter.

Thanks in part to that 19-inning game, we’ve already seen the Yankees cycle through several extra relievers these last few weeks. Matt Tracy, Kyle Davies, Joel De La Cruz, and Branden Pinder have all spent some time in the bullpen this year. The Yankees have plenty more bullpen options in Triple-A too, most notably Jacob Lindgren, Danny Burawa, Nick Rumbelow, Tyler Webb, and Jose Ramirez.

Further down the ladder is another more veteran bullpen option: rehabbing right-hander Andrew Bailey. He’s coming off major shoulder surgery but did get back on a mound in Spring Training and has been with High-A Tampa since the start of the minor league season. Including Grapefruit League play, the 30-year-old Bailey has thrown 10.2 innings across 12 appearances in 2015, pitching to a 5.06 ERA with 14 strikeouts and five walks overall.

At this point the actual performance is a secondary concern. Who cares that Bailey’s ERA is high in his first ten or so innings after missing nearly two full years to a shoulder injury? The most important thing is that he’s healthy and working his way back from his shoulder injury. Bailey’s usage has started to look like typical reliever usage too — he entered a game in the middle of an inning last week and pitched in back-to-back games over the weekend. Those are good signs that his rehab is going well.

Bailey was taken off the High-A Tampa roster and sent to Extended Spring Training yesterday, which usually means one of two things. Either he’s injured or the Yankees are preparing to move him up to a higher level. There’s no indication Bailey is hurt and it seems like he’s reached the point when a veteran pitcher would move up a level to continue his rehab. The question is which level, and is it possible that level is the big leagues?

The Yankees are planning to call up Chase Whitley to make a spot start tomorrow, so the bullpen is going to get reworked a bit. Someone (Chasen Shreve?) will be sent down to make room for Whitley, then Whitley will presumably go down for another reliever Wednesday. Shreve and Pinder can’t come back since it will not have been ten days since they were optioned. Lindgren took a line drive off his foot yesterday, so he may be sidelined for a few days. That leaves Ramirez and Burawa as 40-man options and Rumbelow and Webb as non-40-man options.

Those four may or may not be better big league options than Bailey at this point. Who really knows? There may be other factors to consider as well. Bailey’s minor league contract could very well have an approaching opt-out date, say May 1st or something like that. (Johan Santana’s first opt-out date with the Blue Jays was April 28th, for example.) The Yankees could call Bailey up soon to keep him from opting out. They have spent more than a year rehabbing him, after all. They probably don’t want him to leave and get zero return for their effort.

Either way, Bailey or no Bailey, the Yankees have a quality big league option and several options waiting in Triple-A if necessary. Bailey was a low cost flier who is making real progress from his shoulder injury, and there’s a chance — albeit a small one — he could join the Yankees sooner rather than later. Whether he can be effective is another matter. Bailey is an option though, and following Whitley’s spot start tomorrow, the club will have to turn to one of their bullpen options to fill out the roster.

Injury Updates: Nova, Pirela, Capuano, Ryan

Pirela. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Pirela. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Tigers will play the third game of their four-game series a little later tonight. Until then, here are some injury updates via Marly Rivera, George King, Chad Jennings, and the Associated Press.

  • Ivan Nova (elbow) threw two innings of live batting practice yesterday. He threw 20 pitches, sat down for a few minutes, then threw 15 more pitches. Nova is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Friday, which will be his first game action of any sort since having Tommy John surgery last April. He’s on track to return in June.
  • Jose Pirela (concussion) went 1-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday, which was his first game action since getting hurt. He played third base and stayed in the game after getting plunked. Pirela is scheduled to play seven innings at second base today.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) is scheduled to throw two innings in an Extended Spring Training game today. It’ll be his first game action since getting hurt in Spring Training. Capuano is looking at a mid-May return at the moment.
  • Brendan Ryan (calf) was able to field ground balls and take batting practice yesterday. I believe that is the first time he’s done any sort of baseball activity since getting hurt in Spring Training.

Injury Updates: Gardner, Nova, Capuano, Pirela, Ryan

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

The Yankees and Rays continue their series later tonight, so, until then, there are some updates on various injured Yankees courtesy of Chad Jennings, Bryan Hoch, and the Associated Press:

  • Brett Gardner (wrist) was going to stay in last night’s game to hit after pinch-running, if necessary. “I was prepared if my spot came up in the ninth to get a normal at-bat and get up there and swing the bat,” he said. Gardner came through several rounds of batting practice just fine and should return to the lineup today.
  • Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) threw 20 pitches in his second live batting practice session yesterday. “I’m getting closer. Feels awesome,” he said. Nova expects to throw batting practice two more times next week before getting back into games. Joe Girardi said they’re shooting for May 1st for Nova’s first minor league rehab start.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) threw live batting practice Thursday and will do so again tomorrow. Girardi said Nova and Capuano are “pretty close” with regards to their timetable, but Capuano is “slightly ahead.”
  • Jose Pirela (concussion) is going through all drills and hit against Capuano on Thursday. He’ll play in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday. Girardi was noncommittal when asked if Pirela will join the big league team once healthy.
  • Brendan Ryan (calf) “might” go to Tampa next week to begin going through baseball workouts. It depends how he feels in the coming days.

Chris Capuano faces hitters for first time as he works his way back from quad strain

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Forgotten left-hander Chris Capuano faced hitters for the first time yesterday as he works his way back from a Grade II right quad strain suffered early in Spring Training, reports George King. He threw a round of live batting practice at the team’s complex in Tampa.

Capuano, 36, injured his quad covering first base in his second start of the spring, so he basically has to go through an entire Spring Training before rejoining the Yankees. Fill-in fifth starter Adam Warren is scheduled to start tonight’s game, and it seems like he will make at least four more starts given Capuano’s timetable.

Although Capuano was signed to be the fifth starter, I don’t think he’s guaranteed a rotation spot when he returns if everyone is healthy and Warren is pitching well. Capuano could slide into a relief role and give the Yankees some bullpen stability after they cycled through four pitchers for the final spot in the last week alone.

By no means is Capuano a staff savior or anything, but pitching depth is never a bad thing and he can help the Yankees in some capacity. Perhaps they will speed up his timetable and bring him back as a reliever before he’s fully stretched out, say after three tune-up games or something. We’ll see.

Brett Gardner remains day-to-day after MRI confirms bone bruise in wrist

Gardner with his wrist wrapped on Monday.
Gardner with his wrist wrapped on Monday.

Earlier today, the Yankees announced Brett Gardner underwent an MRI in Tampa, which confirmed he has a bone bruise in his right wrist. An x-ray showed the same thing on Monday, so the MRI confirmed the original diagnosis. The team says Gardner remains day-to-day, though he was available to pinch-run and play defense last night.

Gardner, 31, was hit by a pitch Monday night, a few days after taking a pitch to almost the exact same spot. He remained in Monday’s game for two more at-bats — during which he tried to bunt rather than swing — before being removed. Brett’s off to a 6-for-23 (.261) start with a double and a homer this year. He hasn’t stolen a base yet.

Prior to yesterday’s game Gardner told reporters he “feels much better” and expects to play in tomorrow’s series opener against the Rays. If he doesn’t come back until Saturday, fine, whatever. I just hope this doesn’t turn into a situation where it lingers, he never goes on the DL, and the team plays short-handed for ten days.

Update: Brett Gardner could return to lineup by Friday

Gardner with his wrist wrapped.
Gardner with his wrist wrapped.

Tuesday, 5:01pm: Gardner may be available to pinch-run or play defense tonight, Joe Girardi told reporters. He is still sore and not available to hit. Girardi said he hopes Gardner will be able to return to the lineup Friday, following the off-day.

Monday, 10:11pm: X-rays on Gardner’s wrist came back negative, the Yankees announced. Phew. No word on how long he will sidelined, however.

9:55pm: Brett Gardner left tonight’s game against the Orioles in the seventh inning with a stiff right wrist, the Yankees announced. He is going for an x-ray. Stephen Drew pinch-hit for Gardner and hit a go-ahead grand slam.

Gardner, 31, was hit by a pitch around the wrist area earlier in the game — he was hit in a similar spot over the weekend too, if I’m remembering correctly — but it’s unclear if that’s related. Gardner had debridement surgery on the wrist in July 2012 and hasn’t had any issues since.

Needless to say, losing Gardner for any length of time would be pretty bad. He’s no worse than their third best player right now. I imagine a Garrett Jones/Chris Young platoon would replace him if necessary. Let’s hope if doesn’t come to that. Stay tuned for any updates.

Ivan Nova set to face hitters in live batting practice for first time on Tuesday

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Marly Rivera (translated article), right-hander Ivan Nova is set to face hitters during a session of live batting practice at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa tomorrow. Nova is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and this will be his first time facing hitters as part of his rehab.

“It feels good, already going to be a year since I’ve faced hitters and I feel a little nervous. I feel great physically. I have thrown all my pitches without any hassle and I am confident that everything will be fine,” said Nova to Rivera. Right now I do not know how long I’ll keep throwing batting practice. I have to follow the (process laid out) by my coaches … Do not try to do more than necessary. The important thing is to consider the process.”

Nova, 29, had his elbow rebuild late last April and the Yankees have proceeded very slowly with his rehab. Pitchers usually begin facing hitters 8-10 months after surgery and Nova’s at 12 months now. After however many sessions of batting practice, Nova will return to game action, likely Extended Spring Training at first because the conditions are controlled. The Yankees have been saying they expect Nova back in June all along.

The typical Tommy John surgery rehab schedule has been called into question by some — including Dr. James Andrews — within the last few months because it maybe be too aggressive, which could explain why so many players are now having second Tommy John surgeries. Jeremy Hefner, Cory Luebke, Jonny Venters, and Daniel Hudson all needed a second procedure while still rehabbing from the first. Others like Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Jarrod Parker needed a second Tommy John surgery with a few years of their first.

Clearly the Yankees are being cautious with Nova and I can’t say I blame them one bit. He could be a significant rotation boost at midseason and also figures to be an important part of the rotation next year, his last season before free agency.