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.

Update: CT scan shows chip fracture after Andrew Miller takes line drive to the right wrist

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

8:04pm ET: The CT scan showed a chip fracture in Miller’s wrist, according to Curry. He’ll visit a specialist to determine the next step. No word on a timetable for his return or anything like that.

6:17pm ET: NBC 11 managed to get video of the play. I can’t get it to embed properly, so you’ll have to click the link.

5:29pm ET: The x-rays came back negative, according to Jack Curry. The team has since confirmed the news. Hooray for that. The Yankees are still going to send Miller for a CT scan. That should happen soon.

3:34pm ET: The Yankees are calling it a bruised right wrist for now, says Bryan Hoch. Miller is heading for x-rays and a CT scan, because duh.

2:52pm ET: Andrew Miller left this afternoon’s game after taking a line drive to the right wrist, according to the reporters in Florida. He slammed either his hat or glove down and walked right to the clubhouse. Yikes. The game is not being broadcast anywhere, so there’s no video available.

This all just happened a few minutes ago, so the Yankees have not yet released any kind of update. I assume Miller’s headed for x-rays and other tests as deemed necessary. He was hit in his non-throwing wrist, so I guess that’s the silver lining. Hopefully his glove absorbed some of the blow.

The Yankees will be without Aroldis Chapman for the first 30 games of the season, so, needless to say, losing Miller for any length of time would be really bad. Dellin Betances could step in as closer, but who sets up? Suddenly the Yankees would be looking at Chasen Shreve and Bryan Mitchell in the eighth.

Anyway, stay tuned for updates, whenever they come. Hopefully Miller walks away with nothing more than a nasty bruise. Fingers crossed.

Bryan Mitchell heading for MRI on big toe

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One day after being named to the Opening Day roster, Bryan Mitchell is heading for an MRI on his left big toe, Brian Cashman told reporters in Florida this afternoon. Mitchell’s toe “locked up” as he was covering first base in today’s game. Weird. It’s being called a sprain for now.

Mitchell, 24, has had a fantastic spring this year, which earned him that Opening Day roster spot. He was pretty good out of the bullpen last year, at least before taking a line drive to the nose, and this year he has a chance to solidify his place in the team’s long-term plans.

A toe injury sounds innocent enough, but it could be a pretty big deal. The last thing the Yankees want Mitchell to do is change his mechanics to protect the toe (even subconsciously) and then hurt his arm. Straining a toe covering first base is a weird baseball injury for sure. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

Update: X-rays negative after Jacoby Ellsbury takes pitch to the right wrist

5:49pm ET: X-rays and a CT scan on Ellsbury’s wrist were negative, the Yankees announced. Negative is good! Ellsbury has two weeks and one day to get over any lingering soreness before the start of the regular season.

4:13pm ET: The Yankees say Ellsbury was hit in the wrist and he is heading for x-rays.

3:59pm ET: Jacoby Ellsbury left today’s game after being hit by a pitch in his right hand or wrist in the fifth inning. It might have even hit his forearm. It was in that general area. Here’s the pitch:

Ellsbury was in obvious pain and Joe Girardi pointed him right to the clubhouse, which was no surprise. They’re always going to play it safe with something like in Spring Training. No sense in lobbying to stay in.

The Yankees have not yet released an update on Ellsbury but we’ll get one soon enough. I’m sure he’s headed for x-rays and all that. Those pitches to the hand/wrist area are always scary. So many tiny little easy to break bones in there.

Should Ellsbury miss time, the Yankees have plenty of outfield depth to cover for the injury, plus they have a ready made leadoff hitter replacement in Brett Gardner. Ben Gamel, Slade Heathcott, and Chris Denorfia would all be candidates to land on the roster. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

Yankees may have to tap into outfield depth earlier than expected due to Gardner’s wrist, Williams’ shoulder

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

More than four months after the wildcard game, Brett Gardner is still dealing with a lingering bone bruise in his left wrist after crashing into the outfield wall making a catch against the Astros. The Yankees are being cautious and will limit Gardner’s work early in Spring Training.

Here’s the catch that caused the injury:

“I know he feels good, we are taking it slow,” said Brian Cashman to George King earlier today. “Spring Training is long enough, we don’t have to be rushing. The CT scan showed a bone bruise. The last (scan) showed significant improvement. It’s going in the right direction. At this point, taking the safe route.”

Joe Girardi told Chad Jennings and Jack Curry there is “very little there, but there’s no reason for him to get started,” and the team is taking it slow with Gardner “because we can.” It’s worth noting this is not the wrist that bothered Gardner for much of last season. Last year it was his right wrist after being hit by a pair of pitches in April. This year it’s the left wrist. Gardner told Bryan Hoch he’s fine and will be ready for Opening Day, because of course. He always says he’s fine.

As we learned last season with Mark Teixeira, bone bruises can be very tricky, and even though it’s been four months, the Yankees don’t want to unnecessarily push Gardner in camp. It’s possible the wrist could have been an issue during offseason trade talks. The team has to disclose injuries — well, they don’t have to, but they kinda do — and the wrist may have pushed clubs to focus on other outfielders. There were lots available this winter.

In other injury news, Mason Williams told Jennings he expects to start the season on the DL because he is still rehabbing from shoulder surgery. He had his surgery in August and apparently the rehab timetable is something like 8-10 months. That puts Williams on target for a return hopefully sometime in April, but possibly as late as June. He hurt himself diving back into first base on a pickoff throw. Pretty fluky injury.

So with Gardner banged up and Williams likely to start the season on the DL, the Yankees are already faced with the possibility of dipping into their outfield depth. Good thing they have a lot of it. The outfield depth chart looks something like this right now:

1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2. Brett Gardner
3. Carlos Beltran
4. Aaron Hicks
5. Dustin Ackley
6. Slade Heathcott
7. Mason Williams
8. Ben Gamel

Those are on the 40-man options. We could even throw former outfielder Rob Refsnyder into the mix, though that’s unnecessary. Lane Adams is a non-40-man roster outfield option. So is top prospect Aaron Judge, but the Yankees want to give him regular at-bats in Triple-A this year, and they have the depth to do that even with Gardner already banged up and Williams hurt. They still might have to tap into their outfield depth earlier than expected.

The good news is the tests show Gardner’s bone bruise is improving — remember Teixeira’s bone bruise? his didn’t improve at all — and he was able to hit today. Sweeny Murti says he took 50 swings earlier today, though those were the first swings he’s taken since the wildcard game. Gardner, who usually starts hitting in December, is going to have to knock quite a bit of rust off this spring if he wants to be ready for Opening Day.

Spring Notes: Tanaka, Sabathia, A-Rod, Castro, Nova, Davis

Those shirts! (The Asahi Shimbun/Getty)
Those shirts! (The Asahi Shimbun/Getty)

Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Spring Training in just six days. Many — or most, it seems — are already in Tampa though, so some early camp notes are starting to trickle in. This is good. I am ready for baseball. Here’s a roundup of recent news and notes from Tampa.

Tanaka begins throwing, may be behind other starters in camp

Masahiro Tanaka has gotten back on a mound after having surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in October. According to Ronald Blum, Tanaka threw a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium last week in front of pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Bryan Hoch says Tanaka played catch in Tampa today. Afterwards he said he needs to “get innings in (to) see how I feel” before knowing whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild told Dan Martin Tanaka’s “throwing program was right on target,” though Brian Cashman was a bit more conservative. “He will enter Spring Training maybe a little behind for precautionary reasons. He may be behind going off the bullpen from the beginning, but he is healthy. There are no issues, there are no hiccups,” said the GM to George King.

CC Sabathia was behind the other starters in Spring Training 2013 after having surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow early during the 2012 offseason. He was ready to start the season on time; the club limited his bullpen work early in camp, and had him make his first few spring starts in controlled minor league games rather than regular Grapefruit League games. Tanaka could do the same this spring. We’ll see.

“When you pitch a good game, you’re the hero,” said Tanaka, who worked out with his former Rakuten Golden Eagles teammates in Japan this offseason, to Brad Lefton. “When you have a bad game, everyone says, ‘Something’s wrong with the elbow.’ There’s no way to handle it other than to just accept that’s the way it’s going to be. If you want to stop such talk, then you just have to go out and keep winning ballgames.”

Sabathia and his knee are feeling great

You can file this in the classic early Spring Training everything is awesome category: CC Sabathia’s knee feels great and he’s doing very well following his stint in an alcohol treatment center, he told Laura Albanese and Mark Feinsand. “I feel great and I’ve been working hard for the last three months and I’m ready to go,” said Sabathia. “I’m excited … This is the best I’ve felt in three years.”

Sabathia, now 35, usually throws year round, but he took a month off from throwing a baseball while in rehab. He’s been throwing off a mound for three weeks now. “I’m definitely in a good place. You’ve never got this thing beat; it’s always there and I’m always going to be a recovering alcoholic, but I’m in a good place,” he said. “This is my 16th year in the big leagues and you can take it for granted. This whole experience has put a new lease on my career and the way I’m viewing it.”

I’d be lying if I said I have even medium high hopes for Sabathia this coming season — I’ve done the “overly optimistic about CC” thing a few times these last three years — but I’m glad he feels great and his alcoholism recovery is going well. That goes beyond baseball and he’ll be fighting it the rest of his life. On the field, if the new knee brace allows Sabathia to give the Yankees, say, 180 league average innings in 2016, that would be an enormous upgrade over what he gave them from 2013-15.

Cashman reiterates A-Rod will be a DH only

As if it was not already clear, Cashman reiterated the Yankees see Alex Rodriguez as a DH and a DH only going forward. “You’ve got to stop asking Alex questions,” said Cashman to Billy Witz. “He’s not playing any position anymore. He’s a DH. He’s a very productive DH. For us to get maximum value out of Alex Rodriguez, he’s going to only DH. If we have to put him in the field somewhere, we’re in trouble.”

I wish the Yankees would at least entertain the idea of giving Alex some time at first base in Spring Training, but obviously that’s not going to happen. Greg Bird is done for the season, leaving Dustin Ackley as the backup first baseman. It would be nice if A-Rod were at least capable of being an emergency fill-in at first base for a few innings. Alas. The DH spot is his and his alone.

Castro will play some third base in Spring Training

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

As expected, the Yankees will have Starlin Castro play some third base in Spring Training this year, Cashman told Ryan Hatch. Castro has not played third since rookie ball years and years ago, and that was only a handful of games. He’s played shortstop most of his career, so he is familiar with being on the left side of the infield. Castro moved to second base last August, and I’m not sure giving him another new position to learn right now is the best idea, but we’ll see.

“It’s too early to tell (if he can handle third), so we’ll take the time in Spring Training,” said Cashman. “If (he) can swing over and play some third for us and spell Chase (Headley), that’s a huge benefit for roster flexibility, but if he can’t, we’re not going to force it … If it’s something he’s not comfortable with we’re certainly not going to force that either. But we’ll certainly find out when we get to know him a little better and see how he looks.”

Nova wants to start, because duh

Ivan Nova, who is currently sixth on the rotation depth chart, told Martin he wants to start this year but will pitch out of the bullpen if necessary. “I’m a starting pitcher. I’m not a reliever, but if that’s what they tell me to do, that’s what I’ve got to do,” he said. “If I feel bad going to the bullpen, what’s that going to change?”

The Yankees sent Nova to the bullpen briefly last September, but he never did make a relief appearance and instead moved back into the rotation when Tanaka pulled his hamstring. I firmly believe Nova is going to end up making something like 20-25 starts this year. One or three of the other starters will get hurt and he’ll be the guy to step in. The sixth starter always works more than expected, it seems.

Nova, now 29, had a 5.07 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 94 innings after coming back from Tommy John surgery last year. He didn’t blame his struggles on the elbow — “Whatever happened last year wasn’t because of the Tommy John. I just didn’t pitch good. If I didn’t feel good, I would have said it,” he said — but I do think it’s fair to expect him to improve as he gets further away from the procedure. That’s common. This is also Ivan’s contract year too. I’m sure he’s extra motivated to pitch well, and the Yankees will happily take it if he does.

Beltran, McCann do not want to play first base

Although both Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann have briefly played first base for the Yankees, neither wants to do it going forward, they told Anthony McCarron and Brendan Kuty. “No, no, no. I would do anything. Except (play first). It’s a different animal,” said Beltran. McCann added “I don’t think they want me over there. I don’t move too good. I don’t think they want that.”

Both Beltran and McCann have played some first base in pinstripes, so they’re clearly not opposed to the idea, but they don’t want to do it regularly. I understand that. The Yankees shouldn’t want Beltran or McCann to do it at all. Ideally Mark Teixeira stays healthy at first base and mashes taters all season with Ackley backing him up. If it gets to the point where Beltran has to play first, something very bad has happened. By the way, Beltran told Hatch he dropped ten pounds this offseason and joked he “might try and steal some bases this year.”

Cashman confirms Yankees have spoken to Davis

In the wake of Bird’s injury, the Yankees have indeed spoken to free agent Ike Davis, Cashman confirmed to Anthony Rieber. “We’ve talked to Ike Davis. That’s all I can tell you, really. We’ve talked to a lot of people,” said the GM. “Again, in terms of the Greg Bird scenario, we clearly have a need for an everyday first baseman at Scranton. So anybody that we feel is of quality and can fit that bill and is interested and willing to play in Scranton, then we’re going to have those conversations with a number of different people. But we have talked to Ike as well.”

Ken Davidoff says Davis is expected to sign a minor league contract — not necessarily with the Yankees — at some point soon. Davis, 28, hit .229/.301/.350 (83 wRC+) with three homers in 74 games for the A’s last season. He is a year removed from a 109 wRC+ season, however. Davis is a dead pull lefty hitter with power, making him a very good third string first base candidate for the Yankees. At this point of the offseason, he’s the best option to replace Bird in Scranton. Steve Simineri explained why the Yankees should side Davis in a guest post recently.