James Kaprielian heading to DL with elbow inflammation

(MLB.com)
(MLB.com)

Bad news: right-hander and top pitching prospect James Kaprielian is heading to the High-A Tampa DL, the Yankees announced. The team says he will be “treated conservatively” with rest and a throwing program, and there is no timetable for his return. The MRI showed no structural damage in his elbow, so that’s good.

Kaprielian, 22, has a 1.50 ERA (1.97 FIP) with 22 strike outs and three walks in 18 total innings this season. He’s been marvelous. Reports have indicated his fastball has jumped into the 94-96 mph range and even as high as 99 at times. It’s not uncommon for big velocity spikes to be followed by elbow problems, unfortunately.

The elbow injury and conservative rehab approach could very well erase any chance Kaprielian had at pitching in the big leagues this year. He was going to have to fly though the minors, and even then he would have been on some sort of innings limitation. Bah.

A-Rod and Hicks injuries create some short-term roster headaches for the Yankees

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The just completed nine-game homestand did not go well for the Yankees. Not at all. They lost six times in the nine games, and, over the weekend, they lost both Alex Rodriguez and Aaron Hicks to injury. A-Rod hurt his oblique taking swings in the indoor batting cage between at-bats Sunday, and Hicks jammed his shoulder attempting a diving catch Friday.

The good news is neither A-Rod nor Hicks suffered a serious long-term injury. The MRI on A-Rod’s oblique came back negative, and he did travel with the team to Texas for their upcoming series with the Rangers. Hicks’ MRI showed “traumatic bursitis,” which sounds a lot worse than it really is. He received a cortisone shot and is only expected to miss a few days.

That A-Rod and Hicks only suffered day-to-day injuries is good news. The bad news is the two simultaneous injuries create some roster headaches for the Yankees. They have 23 healthy players on their 25-man roster right now, which means only a two-man bench. Playing short for a few days while one player nurses an injury is one thing. Playing short two position players is very different.

‚ÄúThat would be pretty hard to do … Playing two short would be really difficult,” said Joe Girardi to Daniel Popper following yesterday’s game. The Yankees said they were not going to make an immediate roster move when they announced the results of A-Rod’s MRI last night, but the key word there is immediate. They could still make a move prior to tonight’s game and I expect they will.

What I think will happen and what I think should happen are different things. I think the Yankees will place Hicks on the DL and ride out A-Rod’s injury for a few days. I think the Yankees should place both Hicks and A-Rod on the DL to not only avoid playing short-handed, but also to give the two players as much time as necessary to get healthy. A DL stint means no temptation to bring them back early.

Remember, oblique injuries are very tricky and very easy to re-aggravate. Plus A-Rod is 40 now, and 40-year-olds tend to take longer to heal that 25-year-olds. I can’t help but feel like something the Yankees believe will keep Alex out for, say, four or five days will end up sidelining him for nine or ten days. Same with Hicks to a lesser extent. He won’t be back until the end of the week at the earliest based on the five or six day timetable the team threw out there.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Yankees have 40-man roster flexibility — they have one open spot thanks to Aroldis Chapman‘s suspension, plus two 60-day DL candidates (Greg Bird, Bryan Mitchell) and likely a third (Branden Pinder) — and a bunch of call-up options in Triple-A. A right-handed hitter(s) who can play a little outfield would be ideal, though not completely necessary. Here are the main candidates:

1. Nick Swisher. Swisher has raked in his short time with Triple-A Scranton (175 wRC+), which is good to see, but be careful not to read too much into a 12-year veteran mashing Triple-A pitching. He’s healthy and that’s good. Swisher also stunk the last two years and his knees are shot, so he’s basically a first baseman and DH at this point. (He hasn’t played the outfield at all with Scranton.) Also, Swisher can’t be sent back down when Hicks and A-Rod are healthy.

2. Ben Gamel. Gamel is a left-handed hitter and the Yankees already have three of those in the outfield if you include Dustin Ackley. He has hit this year though (118 wRC+), and he’s far better suited to play right field than Ackley. In a perfect world Carlos Beltran will slide into the DH spot full-time while A-Rod is on the shelf. Gamel may be the best option in terms of expected performance on both sides of the ball.

3. Aaron Judge. Well, if the Yankees want a right-handed batter, Judge would fit the bill. He’s played well in the early going (125 wRC+) despite some strikeout issues (30.9%). The Yankees have been going young whenever possible lately, and Judge would be a better fit than Gamel because he is a righty. That said, he’s not on the 40-man roster, and sending him back down when Hicks and A-Rod return would burn his first minor league option year. Also, Judge simply might need more time in Triple-A. That strikeout rate is no bueno. You’d hate to rush a guy this talented before he’s ready.

4. Lane Adams. The Yankees claimed Adams off waivers this winter specifically because he’s a right-handed hitting outfielder, something they lacked at the upper levels. He started the year in Double-A before moving up to Triple-A when Cesar Puello got hurt, and so far he hasn’t stood out with the bat (78 wRC+). Adams is the best defender among the team’s outfield options, which is not nothing. It’s unknown how much any of these guys will contribute with the bat right now. Adams could help the most in the field.

5. Rob Refsnyder? Once upon a time Refsnyder was a right fielder, though he has played only nine games at the position since 2013. The Yankees had him work out exclusively at second and third base in Spring Training and Triple-A. That said, he’s a right-handed hitter, and he did some damage against lefties late last year. The Yankees could use the help against southpaws. Would they stick Refsnyder in right field for a few days until Hicks returns? My guess is no, but it is an option.

Gamel is the easy move because he’s already on the 40-man roster and is playing the best on both sides of the ball right now. Swisher is the “old Yankees” move in that he’s a veteran who would be getting priority over younger players. Adams is the boring option, Judge is the bold option, and Refsnyder is the out of the box option. If the Yankees do stick someone (Hicks) on the DL, I think Gamel would get the call. I’m wrong all the time though.

Neither A-Rod nor Hicks have been hitting all that much in the early going, so it’s possible whoever gets called up will actually improve the team in the short-term. Still, the Yankees want to get those two going, and they’re at their best when those two guys are playing up to their potential. A-Rod and Hicks won’t be able to snap out of their funks while injured. There’s nothing the team can do about that though. They just have to hope they can return soon.

Point is, having A-Rod and Hicks hurt at the same time really creates some problems. The injuries remove two right-handed bats from a team struggling against lefties (74 wRC+) and they could be left playing shorthanded for a few days. These are only day-to-day injuries, but the fact both happened at the same time gives the Yankees little choice but to stick someone on the DL for the time being.

Update: MRI on A-Rod’s oblique comes back negative

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

6:27pm: The MRI on A-Rod‘s oblique came back negative, the Yankees announced. I assume that means he doesn’t have any kind of strain that will require a DL stint. The Yankees say no immediate roster move will be made, and Alex will travel with the team to Texas. They love him down there, you know.

3:42pm: Alex Rodriguez left this afternoon’s game with an oblique injury, reports Jack Curry. The Yankees have since confirmed the news. A-Rod tweaked his side while taking swings in the batting cage between at-bats. There’s no word on the severity just yet, though the Yankees say he’s heading for an MRI.

The Yankees are currently without Aaron Hicks, who is nursing a shoulder injury and received a cortisone shot yesterday. Obliques can be very tricky and easy to re-aggravate. If A-Rod is going to be down for a few days, the Yankees are going to have to put someone on the DL and make a call-up. Can’t play with a 23-man roster.

Dustin Ackley doesn’t have much right field experience at all, so while putting him in right and Carlos Beltran at DH is possible, it might not be the best move with both Hicks and A-Rod out. Nick Swisher and Ben Gamel seem like the primary call-up candidates, though I’d be surprised if it’s Swisher, especially if both Hicks and A-Rod are due back soon.

Rodriguez, 40, came into Sunday’s game 7-for-53 (.132) on the season. He ripped a double off the wall this afternoon and had a home run knocked down by the wind yesterday. The Yankees won’t miss his bat in the short-term, but he’s not going to get out of his funk sitting on the DL either. Hopefully he comes back soon.

Update: Fluoroscope on McCann’s toe comes back negative

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

10:43pm: A fluoroscope at Rogers Centre came back negative, the Yankees say. It’s being called a bruise and McCann is day-to-day. He will not go for any additional tests unless the injury lingers. Exhale.

10:24pm: Brian McCann is going for an x-ray on his toe, Joe Girardi told reporters following tonight’s game. He took a foul pitch off his foot early in the game but did stay in, and he even hit a home run in the sixth inning. Girardi said McCann will not play tomorrow regardless of the x-ray results.

McCann was limping noticeably during his home run trot and was also seen rubbing his foot during the at-bat. He even called the trainer out at one point during the game, but stayed in. Austin Romine replaced McCann behind the plate in the ninth inning.

Following tonight’s 2-for-4 effort, McCann is now hitting .500/.591/.889 (323 wRC+) this season. Yes, it’s super duper early. That doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s been outstanding so far. Everyone loves Gary Sanchez, but man, losing McCann for any length of time would be a big blow.

Jennings: Nick Rumbelow to undergo Tommy John surgery

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

6:19pm: Brian Cashman confirmed Rumbelow does indeed need his elbow rebuilt, reports Mark Feinsand.

5:54pm: Bad news: Chad Jennings hears right-hander Nick Rumbelow needs Tommy John surgery. He pitched an inning for Triple-A Scranton last night and went out for a second inning, but he got hurt during warm-ups and was removed from the game. The Yankees have not yet confirmed the news.

Rumbelow, 24, allowed eight runs in 15.2 innings for the big league club last year. The team’s seventh round pick in the 2013 draft shot through the minors and reached the show roughly two years out of college. The Yankees were reportedly planning to try Rumbelow as a starter this season.

The Yankees have a lot of minor league bullpen depth, but they’ve now lost Rumbelow and Bryan Mitchell to long-term injuries. They’re already down two arms. Branden Pinder, Nick Goody, James Pazos, and Tyler Olson are the 40-man roster relievers in Triple-A at the moment.

These days teams are giving players closer to 14 months to rehab from Tommy John surgery rather than the usual 12 months, so Rumbelow may not return until the All-Star break next year. Sucks.

Update: Mitchell to miss at least four months following toe surgery

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

April 5th: Mitchell had surgery on his toe yesterday and will miss at least four months, Joe Girardi told reporters at Yankee Stadium today. Yikes. I’m not sure if that means four months until he’s back on a big league mound, or four months until he can resume baseball activities. Either way, it seems the best case scenario for Mitchell’s return is sometime in August.

March 31st: The Yankees are down another reliever. Earlier today the team announced Bryan Mitchell has suffered “Grade 3 turf toe on his left big toe and a fracture of the Sesamoid bone,” which is fancy talk for a broken toe. They didn’t give a timetable, but Jack Curry says Mitchell will miss a minimum of three months. He’ll see a specialist tomorrow and may need surgery.

“I felt something but definitely didn’t think it was this severe,” said Mitchell to Erik Boland this morning. He is on crutches for the time being. Mitchell, who was named to the Opening Day roster earlier this week, hurt himself covering first base in yesterday’s game. It was initially called a sprain, but apparently tests showed much more damage than expected. Rough.

The Yankees are already without Aroldis Chapman because of his suspension, and Andrew Miller suffered a chip fracture in his wrist in yesterday’s game, so it’s possible the team will be down three projected Opening Day relievers. Miller plans to pitch through his injury, but he has to see what the specialist says first. Chapman and Mitchell are definitely out for the start of the season.

Mitchell, 24, allowed one run on seven hits and three walk in 15.2 innings this spring. He struck out a dozen. The Yankees said they were holding a fifth starter competition, but apparently Mitchell was not included, because he would have won it with those numbers. He threw the ball very well in Grapefruit League play. Mitchell had a 6.37 ERA (4.75 FIP) in 29.2 big league innings last year, though he was very good before taking a line drive to the nose.

So, with Chapman and Mitchell out, the bullpen right now is Miller, Dellin Betances, Chasen Shreve, Ivan Nova, and three open spots. It would become four open spots if Miller can’t go. The Yankees have only four bullpen candidates remaining in big league camp (Johnny Barbato, Luis Cessa, Anthony Swarzak, Kirby Yates) but they could always call someone up from the minors. They have a ton of young relievers in Triple-A.

The Mitchell injury not only hurts the bullpen, but he was also a piece of rotation depth. He may have been as high as seventh on the rotation depth chart. The injury is unfortunate for the Yankees and it really sucks for Mitchell. This season was going to be a great opportunity for him to carve out a big league role and make a name for himself. Now it all has to be put on hold.

Update: Andrew Miller cleared to pitch through right wrist injury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Friday: The hand specialist has cleared Miller to pitch through the chip fracture in his right wrist, reports Jack Curry. The fracture will heal naturally and the only question is pain tolerance. I’m sure the Yankees will give him something to help with that. They dodged a big time bullet.

Thursday: Earlier this morning, Andrew Miller told reporters in Tampa he plans to pitch through his right wrist injury. “It’s my right hand, I don’t really need it,” he said to Erik Boland. Miller was hit by a line drive in yesterday’s game and suffered a chip fracture. He clarified the injury was to a bone at the base of his hand, not in his wrist.

The toughness is admirable, but Miller still has to see a specialist later today, and the specialist will determine whether the injury is actually playable. No, it’s not his throwing wrist, but he still needs to be able to catch the ball with his glove. It’s also possible he could do more damage if he gets hit again or falls on wet grass, something like that.

We’ll see what the specialist says. Hopefully this is indeed a playable injury and Miller will be ready for Opening Day, or shortly thereafter. The Yankees are already going to be without Aroldis Chapman for 30 games, and when you build you team from the ninth inning forward, losing two top relievers is bad news.