Injuries have caught up to the offense, but there are signs things may soon improve


Even including last night’s win, the Yankees are now 11-11 in August and have seen their six-game AL East lead disappear. They’re now tied with the Blue Jays. The combination of Toronto getting insanely hot and the Yankees playing decidedly mediocre ball have turned a comfortable division lead into a legitimate race. Races are fun! That’s why we watch. It also would have been nice to see that big lead last more than three weeks, but alas.

The Yankees have faded a bit this month — August is not their worst month of the season, they went 13-16 in May but rebounded to go 15-12 in June and 17-7 in July — for many reasons, some of which were not entirely unpredictable. First and foremost, they’ve been bit by the injury bug. They lost Michael Pineda (forearm) and CC Sabathia (knee) to injuries after both guys came into the season as health risks. Seeing them land on the DL wasn’t a total shock.

Other injuries have been somewhat fluky. Mark Teixeira fouled a ball off his shin and has been out a week, hurting the Yankees on both sides of the ball. (I love Greg Bird as much as anyone, but the Yankees miss Teixeira. It’s obvious.) Brian McCann pulled a little something in his left knee chasing after a ball in the dirt a few weeks ago, and while he’s stayed in the lineup, he’s clearly not 100%. He’s wearing a brace and has altered his batting stance to take pressure off the knee:

McCann downplayed the batting stance change but come on. It looks like he’s about to fall over trying to take his weight off that left knee. McCann hurt his knee on August 4th and has gone 12-for-57 (.211) with a 22.6% strikeout rate since. He has hit four home runs during that time, so his power is still there, but he had an 18.8% strikeout rate before the injury. His timing seems to be off slightly following the knee injury, maybe due to that weird stance.

Then there’s Alex Rodriguez, who as far as we know isn’t hurt. Either way, he is not producing like he did earlier in the year. That’s not really a surprise, I suppose. As great as Alex is, it was probably unrealistic to think he’d hit like an MVP candidate all season as a 40-year-old with two surgically repaired hips who didn’t play at all last year and barely played the year before. A-Rod‘s gone 11-for-84 (.131) with two homers this month, though it worth noting the two homers both came within the last week.

Joe Girardi gave Rodriguez both Saturday and Sunday off, saying he wanted to “refresh” him. The Yankees have an off-day Thursday, so that’s another day to rest, and they’ll be in Atlanta for an interleague series this weekend. The team has committed to A-Rod at DH this year and there’s no reason to think he’ll play third (or first) base against the Braves. Assuming he starts tonight and tomorrow, Alex will still get six days off in a nine-day span. Hopefully that gets him going.

The Yankees built that big lead in the AL East thanks in large part to Teixeira, A-Rod, and McCann. Those guys were forces in the middle of the lineup for much of the season and are a huge reason why the team still ranks second in baseball with an average of 4.73 runs per game. That’s even after scoring 61 runs in their last 19 games, or 3.21 per game. They were that good for most of the season. Now? Not so much. McCann and Teixeira are banged up and A-Rod’s in a cold spell, perhaps due to fatigue.

The good news is things may be starting to change for the better. McCann had a great game last night, going 3-for-3 with a walk. Also, Teixeira was on deck ready to pinch-hit last night when Beltran hit his walk-off sac fly, which is an indication he is moving closer to returning to the starting lineup. A-Rod? Eh, aside from his two big homers last week — big as in long distance, they were bombs — I’m not sure if there are any positive signs there. Two outta three ain’t bad, I guess.

Let’s not beat around the bush: without Teixeira, McCann, and A-Rod producing at an above average clip, the Yankees have close to no chance to beat out the Blue Jays for the division title. The Yankees need to fire on all cylinders to keep pace with Toronto, and those three key middle of the order bats are hitting a combined .189/.270/.388 in 218 plate appearances this month. Yikes. Carlos Beltran can’t do it all himself. Those three need to start helping out again.

The pitching has been solid this month but the offense has been a big letdown of late. These nagging injuries Teixeira and McCann are dealing with are part of baseball, and hey, when you have a 40-year-old player playing everyday, you run of risk of him hitting a wall down the stretch. Unfortunately all of this is happening at once. Hopefully McCann’s big night, Teixeira being on deck, and A-Rod hitting two homers last week are signs these guys are close to getting back to where they need to be. The sooner they get going, the better the Yankees’ chances of winning the AL East.

Update: CC Sabathia exits Sunday’s start with right knee pain

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

2:41pm: Sabathia left the game with right knee pain and will have an MRI, the Yankees announced. That’s the knee with the degenerative condition Sabathia has had surgically repaired three times — including a season-ending clean out procedure last summer — and drained twice already this season. Not good news.

2:12pm: CC Sabathia left Sunday afternoon’s start with an unknown injury in the third inning. He struck out Yan Gomes, walked around the mound slowly, then Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue came out to talk to him. Sabathia didn’t lobby to stay in the game or throw any test pitches. He went right to the clubhouse. Here’s the video.

One thing we’ve learned about Sabathia in recent years is that he will pitch hurt. He pitched with a bone spur in his elbow a few years ago, has pitched through on and off knee trouble throughout his career, and even pitched through a Grade II hamstring strain two years ago. For Sabathia to leave like that, he must really be hurt.

The Yankees have not yet announced any sort of update on Sabathia, so stay tuned. Michael Pineda (forearm) is due to come off the DL on Wednesday and Bryan Mitchell is making progress after being hit in the face by a line drive, so the team can fill the rotation spot. Hopefully it’s nothing serious. We’ll see.

Update: Teixeira leaves game with bruised leg, x-rays negative

10:03pm ET: Mark Teixeira left tonight’s game after fouling a pitch off his right leg, right below the knee. He limped around for a bit, walked it off, stayed in to finish the at-bat, then was removed for a pinch-runner after drawing a walk. Teixeira limped down to first base and was pretty clearly in discomfort.

Hopefully Teixeira walks away with nothing more than a welt, because the Yankees can’t really afford to lost their starting first baseman and cleanup hitter. I love Greg Bird as much as the next guy, but this is not the way I want to see him get at-bats. The Yankees haven’t made any sort of update on Teixeira, so stay tuned.

Update 10:44pm ET: Teixeira is day-to-day with a bruised right leg, the Yankees announced. X-rays came back negative. He was removed for precautionary reasons. Exhale.

Update: Bryan Mitchell suffers small nasal fracture after being hit by line drive


8:00pm ET: Scary moment Monday night. Bryan Mitchell left tonight’s game in the second inning after being hit by a line drive in the face. It looked as though he was able to turn away at the last moment to avoid a direct shot, but it still hit him and deflected far into the outfield. Maybe it got him in the cheek or nose? Hopefully not the eye.

Here’s the play:

Mitchell was on the ground for a few moments but was eventually able to walk off the field with help from the trainer. He was bleeding quite heavily though and had a towel to his face. The Yankees have not yet given any updates on Mitchell but I’m sure one is coming soon enough. That was really scary. Hopefully it’s just a flesh wound.

Update (8:45pm ET): The Yankees announced Mitchell was taken to the hospital for a “full evaluation” but did not say where exactly the ball hit him. I’m sure he’s undergoing x-rays, concussion tests, the whole nine.

Update (10:05pm ET): Mitchell suffered a small nasal fracture and has been released from the hospital, the Yankees announced. He will be monitored for concussion symptoms going forward. All things considered, good news.

Yankees place Dustin Ackley on 15-day DL; Mason Williams to have shoulder surgery

Williams. (Presswire)
Williams. (Presswire)

The Yankees have placed utility man Dustin Ackley on the 15-day DL with a right lumbar strain, the team announced. Also, Brian Cashman told reporters Mason Williams will have shoulder surgery on August 7th, effectively ending his season. Blah.

Cashman said an MRI showed a herniated disc in Ackley’s back. He received an epidural and will be out 20-30 days. The Yankees are hoping Ackley can avoid surgery, which would end his season. The injury happened at some point after the trade. “He was a hot potato without realizing he was hot. The hot potato fell on our lap,” said the GM.

Ackley, 27, has never had any sort of back trouble before and this is the first time he’s ever been on the DL. He’s gone 0-for-3 at the plate since being acquired from the Mariners for Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez last week. Ackley replaced Garrett Jones as the team’s fifth outfielder/backup first baseman.

Williams, meanwhile, has been out since mid-June with a right shoulder injury. He hurt himself diving back into first base on a pickoff play. Williams has been rehabbing his shoulder since the injury and has dealt with some setbacks, but the Yankees were optimistic he would avoid surgery. It won’t happen. That stinks.

The Yankees activated Slade Heathcott off the 60-day DL and optioned him to Triple-A on Friday, so he can’t be recalled until next Monday because of the ten-day rule. Rob Refsnyder, Tyler Austin, Jose Pirela, and Cole Figueroa are all on the 40-man and waiting in Triple-A. I wonder if the Yankees will just stick with a three-man bench and an eight-man bullpen for the time being.

Update: Pineda heading to DL with Grade I forearm strain

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

2:59pm ET: It’s official. The Yankees have placed Pineda on the 15-day DL with a “right flexor forearm muscle strain,” the team announced. They did not give a timetable. Sabathia will be bumped up a day to start tonight. He’ll be on normal rest because of Tuesday’s spot starter.

2:37pm ET: Pineda is heading to the DL with a Grade I forearm muscle strain, reports Joel Sherman. It’s the same injury Andrew Miller had earlier this year. Miller missed a month but is a reliever who didn’t have to get stretched out. Between healing time and a minor league rehab assignment, Pineda could be out six to eight weeks. We’ll see. Sherman says Bryan Mitchell is being called up for long relief and Sabathia will start in place of Pineda tonight.

1:45pm ET: Well this is ominous. According to Marly Rivera, Michael Pineda has been scratched from tonight’s start with tightness in his forearm. Apparently Mike Francesa was first to report the news. No word on who will start tonight, but it could be CC Sabathia on normal rest. The Yankees have not yet officially announced anything.

Forearm tightness is usually code for an elbow injury. Pineda missed time with an elbow strain while in the minors back in 2009 but has had no trouble since as far as I can tell. He missed a bunch of time with shoulder trouble the last few years, but that’s it. His elbow has been sound.

Pineda, 26, has a 3.97 ERA (2.96 FIP) in 118 innings, by far the most innings he’s thrown since his rookie season in 2011. He tossed just 76.1 innings around a lat strain. Pineda’s control has been shaky at times this year, which is often a symptom of looming elbow trouble. He’s also a slider heavy pitcher, throwing it 33.5% of the time this season. Sliders are ostensibly bad for the elbow.

Even before Pineda’s injury, the Yankees needed pitching help to bolster a starting staff with a 4.32 ERA, ranking 21st in MLB. David Price and Johnny Cueto are off the board, Scott Kazmir too, but there are still quite a few arms available on the trade market, including Mike Leake and Yovani Gallardo. Either way, fingers crossed for Pineda. This is big picture scary.

Andrew Miller to be activated off DL on Wednesday


Left-hander Andrew Miller will be activated off the 15-day DL on Wednesday, Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon. He’s expected to step right back into the closer’s role as well. “That’s probably what I would do,” said Girardi. Jacoby Ellsbury is due to be activated tomorrow as well.

Miller, 30, has missed just about four weeks with flexor muscle strain in his forearm. Tests confirmed the injury was limited to his forearm muscle, and there was no damage to his ulnar collateral ligament. Miller threw a scoreless inning for Triple-A Scranton on Monday and told reporters today that he felt great.

I assume either Nick Rumbelow or Bryan Mitchell will go to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for Miller. I’d rather see Mitchell stick around but it’s not a huge deal either way. Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve really stepped up while Miller was out, plus Adam Warren returned to the bullpen, so the late-inning relief crew suddenly looks real deep.