Injury News: Nathan Eovaldi, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira

And no one was ever healthy again. (Presswire)
And no one was ever healthy again. (Presswire)

Got a bunch of not particular good injury updates to pass along, which come from Brian Cashman via the plethora of beat reporters. Away we go:

  • It “sounds like” Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) will not be able to return during the regular season, said Cashman. That’s not good. Eovaldi could be in play for the postseason, however. He will be shut down two weeks, then begin a two-week throwing program. The regular season ends three weeks and five days from today.
  • As for replacing Eovaldi in the rotation, Cashman said Adam Warren will be stretched back and will soon make another start. Bryan Mitchell was mentioned as another option. A trade isn’t happening. “I think what you’re seeing is what we’ve got,” said the GM.
  • Brett Gardner has been trying to play through a jammed shoulder recently. He hurt himself crashing into a wall making a catch. Gardner, who is not in tonight’s lineup for the second straight day, received a platelet-rich plasma injection the Yankees hope will calm things down. He is available tonight if necessary.
  • Mark Teixeira (leg) received two injections to help relieve some nerve inflammation around the bone bruise in his shin. He’s still on crutches. Cashman admitted he “(does) wonder” whether Teixeira will be able to return this season. Well, at least the team has a viable fill-in at first base.

Eovaldi shut down two weeks with elbow inflammation

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Earlier this evening, the Yankees announced right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will be shut down two weeks with right elbow inflammation. He was examined today and underwent an MRI. I assume no structural damage was found. The timetable would be way longer than two weeks in that case.

Eovaldi, 25, had Tommy John surgery as a high school junior way back in 2007. His elbow has been healthy since. (He dealt with some shoulder inflammation in 2013.) There are still four weeks left in the regular season, so, with any luck, Eovaldi will be back in two weeks. Hopefully this is nothing serious.

In 27 starts and 154.1 innings this year, Eovaldi has a 4.20 ERA (3.43 FIP), though he’s been much better of late, with a 3.43 ERA (2.87 FIP) in 14 starts and 84 innings since the Miami disaster. Eovaldi did struggle with his location the last two times out and command problems are a classic symptom of elbow trouble.

The Yankees are getting CC Sabathia back from his knee injury Wednesday, so he’ll step right into Eovaldi’s rotation spot. Expanded rosters will still allow them to use a spot sixth starter whenever they want. Bryan Mitchell and Chris Capuano are candidates to make spot starts if necessary.

Eovaldi has been the team’s best pitcher the last few weeks, and the Yankees are already without their best hitter thanks to Mark Teixeira‘s bone bruise, so the roster has taken some big hits of late. And yet, they’re tied with the Blue Jays in the loss column. Fighting spirit.

Mark Teixeira’s injury will be a significant obstacle down the stretch

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Prior to last night’s win, the Yankees got some bad news about their 2015 MVP, or maybe I should say bad news that could have been a lot worse. Mark Teixeira, who left the team Monday and returned to New York to have tests on his shin, does not have any kind of fracture. His bone bruise, however, has not gotten better and he will be on crutches for at least a few days. Brian Cashman said it’ll be at least two weeks until Teixeira returns.

“It just hasn’t been healing in any way, shape or form, and they’ve ruled out any other complications. It’s a timing mechanism and it’s taking a hell of a lot longer than we would have expected,” said Cashman to Wally Matthews. “The biggest concern was a stress fracture, but that’s been ruled out. You would have expected to see some sort of improvement on the bone contusion healing process, and that has not happened. Now he’ll probably be two weeks [before] we’ll get him going.”

Teixeira suffered the injury on a fluke play. All he did was foul a pitch into his shin, which is the kind of thing that happens countless times each season. This one just happened to catch Teixeira in the right spot — or wrong spot, I guess — and he’s been out more than two weeks. The Yankees never did place him on the DL because they thought it would be a day-to-day issue. Obviously that has not been the case. (Rosters are expanded now, so there’s no sense in placing him on the DL at this point.)

If nothing else, at least Tuesday’s news gives us a bit of a reprieve from the daily updates and wondering whether today will be the day Teixeira returns to the lineup. He’s at least two weeks away now. There is never a good time for an injury like this, but right now is an especially bad time given the AL East and wildcard races, and the fact the season ends in the month. There’s a non-zero chance this bone bruise ends Teixeira’s season.

Teixeira is the Yankees’ most irreplaceable player because he’s elite on both sides of the ball. Even with his early-August slump, he is still hitting .255/.357/.548 (145 wRC+) with 31 home runs overall, including a 155 wRC+ against righties and a 118 wRC+ against lefties. Teixeira’s a switch-hitter who has an impact from both sides of the plate. He also plays a mean first base, and you never truly appreciate great first base defense until you don’t get it. The only thing Teixeira doesn’t do well is run. He’s been great at everything else this year.

The Yankees don’t have that guy anymore. Teixeira’s two-way impact is gone. Greg Bird has gotten a chance to sink or swim at first base since Teixeira went gone down, and while playing the kids is exciting, Bird has been a substantial downgrade. He hasn’t hit a whole lot (90 wRC+) and the drop off on defense is painfully obvious. I like Bird and have been especially impressed by his approach. He has a good chance to be the first baseman of the future. It’s also okay to acknowledge he has been a detriment since being pressed into everyday duty.

So now, with Teixeira out, it’s up the other veterans to pick up the slack. To me that means basically everyone in the lineup other than Bird and Didi Gregorius, though Didi has picked up the pace of late. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner need to be gangbusters atop the lineup. Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann need to continue to produce and Chase Headley has to sustain his second half surgery. Alex Rodriguez? The longer his slump goes on the less likely it is the Yankees win the division. Pretty simple.

No one player makes a team, not even someone as good as Mike Trout, but Teixeira’s injury is a significant blow to the Yankees. They rely on him heavily both defensively and offensively, in the middle of the lineup against both righties and lefties. Katie explained yesterday just how huge Teixeira has been in high-leverage spots this year. That clutch bat is gone now. Not having Teixeira is a major obstacle the Yankees will have to overcome these next few weeks to return to the postseason.

CC Sabathia doesn’t need knee surgery, open to pitching out of the bullpen in September

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

One day after being placed on the 15-day DL with right knee inflammation, CC Sabathia went for a second opinion today, which confirmed he has no new damage in the knee. It’s simply some arthritic stuff that requires rest. Sabathia does not need surgery, neither now nor in the offseason.

Sabathia told reporters he hopes to return to the team after his 15 days are up, and added he is willing to pitch out of the bullpen should the Yankees ask. “Helping the team any way I can,” he said. For what it’s worth, Joe Girardi said moving Sabathia to the bullpen is something they won’t discuss until CC is actually healthy enough to pitch again. Makes sense.

The overall numbers are ugly this year (5.27 ERA and 4.82 FIP in 138.1 innings) but there is reason to think the 35-year-old Sabathia could be effective in relief. For starters, he still destroys lefties, holding them to a .180/.209/.291 (.218 wOBA) batting line with a 30.4% strikeout rate this year. Secondly, Sabathia is at his best the first time through the lineup (via Baseball Reference):

Split G PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/W BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip sOPS+
1st PA in G, as SP 24 215 21 51 8 0 8 15 42 2.80 .258 .313 .419 .732 .291 108
2nd PA in G, as SP 24 209 30 60 5 2 7 11 44 4.00 .314 .351 .471 .822 .368 126
3rd PA in G, as SP 22 167 25 51 4 2 11 9 24 2.67 .331 .370 .597 .967 .333 150
4th+ PA in G, as SP 7 12 1 2 0 0 0 2 3 1.50 .222 .333 .222 .556 .286 53

Righties have crushed Sabathia this season (.388 wOBA!), but, if he’s limited to facing mostly lefties in one or two innings bursts, it’s possible he’ll be an effective reliever. Not just effective, maybe even really good. A late-inning weapon.

Sabathia has made just one career relief appearance and that was in Game Five of the 2011 ALDS, when Ivan Nova got hurt and had to leave after two innings. CC allowed a run in 1.1 innings. Moving to the bullpen — if it happens, of course — would take a bit of an adjustment on his part, though September is a good time to work through those issues thanks to expanded rosters.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Sabathia was just placed on the DL yesterday, so he’s at least two weeks away from being activated. That assumes his knee heels up quickly. We’re just going to have to wait and see. Hopefully Sabathia gets healthy soon and the team has to make a decision about his role because everyone else on the staff is healthy and pitching effectively.

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

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

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.