Greg Bird to miss 2016 following right shoulder surgery

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

Well this is bad. Greg Bird will miss the entire 2016 season following right shoulder surgery, the Yankees have announced. He has a torn labrum and will have the procedure tomorrow. Bird missed about a month with a shoulder strain in the minors last year and felt it again during offseason workouts, the team confirmed.

Bird, 23, was scheduled to start the 2016 season in Triple-A since the Yankees have Mark Teixeira at first base, Alex Rodriguez at DH, and Carlos Beltran as a backup DH. Given the fragility of those players, there was a good chance Bird would get plenty of big league playing time anyway. That won’t happen now.

Since being drafted in 2010 Bird has dealt with ongoing back issues, which caused him to move from catcher to first base. The shoulder is relatively new as far as I know. Last season was the first time he had trouble with it. Obviously a torn labrum is very serious, especially since it is his throwing shoulder and front shoulder when hitting.

Front shoulder injuries are known to sap power even after the player is healthy. Brian McCann, Adrian Gonzalez, and Matt Kemp all had front shoulder surgeries in recent years and needed almost a full year to get back to where they were before going under the knife. Bird is close to an offense-only player. And loss of power would be bad news.

Service time rules are tricky but I’m fairly certain the Yankees can’t option Bird at this point. That means he’ll accrue a full year of service time sitting on the big league DL next summer and burn one of his six years of team control. Not ideal, but dems the breaks.

Luis Torrens is “healthy and ready” for Spring Training following shoulder surgery

(SI Advance)
(SI Advance)

Catcher prospect Luis Torrens is “healthy and ready” for Spring Training following shoulder surgery last year, Brian Cashman confirmed to George King (subs. req’d). Torrens missed the entire 2015 season after having surgery last March to repair a torn labrum. He went into last season as the No. 6 prospect in the system, in my opinion.

“He is healthy and ready, full bore, for Spring Training,” said Cashman. Farm system head Gary Denbo told King that Torrens spent his down year taking English classes and hitting the weight room. He was healthy enough to perform some baseball activities (hitting, throwing, etc.) late in Instructional League back in September and October.

Torrens, who is still only 19, missed two months during the 2014 season with a shoulder strain. He started the year with Low-A Charleston, played nine games, got hurt, then joined Short Season Staten Island once he got healthy. Torrens hit .270/.327/.405 (115 wRC+) with the Baby Bombers as one of the youngest players in NY-Penn League. He had a 21-game hitting streak at one point.

The Yankees signed Torrens for $1.3M out of Venezuela in July 2012. He was mostly an infielder as an amateur who moved to catcher full-time after signing. Torrens received a ton of praise for his baseball aptitude soon after signing and he was getting rave reviews for his progress behind the plate in 2014. He took to the position very quickly.

It goes without saying shoulder surgery is very serious for a catcher. A lot of defensive value is tied up in the arm. (Torrens has thrown out 41% of base-stealers in his career.) I’m glad to hear Torrens was healthy enough to work out at Instructs and will be “full bore” for camp. He’s one of the best all-around prospects in the system when healthy.

Offseason Updates: CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira

CC Sabathia
(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Both CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira are preparing for their eighth and possibly final season with the Yankees. I still remember when they signed those guys. Feels like yesterday. That was a pretty fun time in RABland. Anyway, here are some offseason updates on Sabathia and Teixeira.

Sabathia is “light years” ahead in workouts

Coming off his stint in an alcohol rehab center, Sabathia told Bryan Hoch and Chad Jennings he is “light years” ahead of the last few years with his offseason workouts. His offseason workouts have been limited by injuries in recent years. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow following 2012, had to rehab a Grade II hamstring strain following 2013, and then had to rehab from his knee surgery following 2014.

“I’m probably light years ahead, being able to fully work out and do the things I want to do totally healthy. The workouts are a lot tougher, but it’s kind of what I need at this point in my career,” he said. “I’m one of those guys that never stops throwing, so I found a couple of guys in rehab to throw the football with. Then when I came out, I picked up the baseball and have been throwing.”

Sabathia is planning to continue wearing the clunky new knee brace he wore at the end of this past season, when he reeled off his best five-start stretch in about three years. As long as he’s healthy, the Yankees aren’t going to take Sabathia out of the rotation next season. They’ve made that pretty clear. Hopefully the new knee brace does the trick.

Teixeira’s rehab continues to go well

It has now been three months and one week since Teixeira was shut down with a fracture in his right shin, an injury that came with a three-month rehab timetable. He won’t start running until next month but so far everything is going well. “I saw him the other day. He’s doing much better. I’m excited to get him back,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand.

Girardi also said Teixeira will be ready for the start of Spring Training. That’s good since not being ready would mean he suffered a significant setback. The Yankees do have a Grade-A backup plan in Greg Bird, but Teixeira’s the better player at this point, and you know he wants to have a strong contract year. With any luck, Teixeira will play his way into a qualifying offer next season. He was pretty awesome before getting hurt in 2015, remember.

Injury Updates: Tanaka, Teixeira, Eovaldi

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

Yesterday morning, Brian Cashman went for some practice runs rappelling down the Landmark Building in Stamford for the Heights & Lights ceremony. This is an annual thing for Cashman now and it’s for a good cause, so don’t be a jerk and complain. Anyway, Cashman passed along some injury updates between runs. Here’s the latest, courtesy of Chad Jennings and Bryan Hoch.

  • Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) has finished his physical therapy following surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow. He’s heading home to Japan soon and will begin a throwing program. “He’s got a throwing program, so he should be good to go in the spring, but I’m sure we’ll be careful with him nonetheless,” said Cashman.
  • Mark Teixeira (shin) has shed his walking boot and is going through workouts. He’s not scheduled to begin running until after the holidays though. “He’s out of his boot. He’s, I’d say, healthy. He’s walking around, doing activities,” said the GM.
  • Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) is fine. He was ready to be added to the ALDS roster had the Yankees advanced. Eovaldi is going through his normal offseason routine. “No concern. He’s got a normal winter routine that he can execute,” said Cashman

Mark Teixeira has “no problems at all” with broken shin, won’t begin running until January

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

It has now been nearly 12 weeks with Mark Teixeira fouled a pitch off his right shin, suffering what was first diagnosed as a bone bruise and later diagnosed as a small fracture. It has been eight weeks since the Yankees confirmed Teixeira was done for the season. The team said the fracture came with a three-month recovery timetable.

At a charity event earlier this week, Teixeira told reporters his shin is healing well and he has resumed full workouts. He is not scheduled to begin running until January, but is doing basically everything else right now.

“I feel great. No problems at all,” said Teixeira to Brian Lewis. “I’m working out full-speed. I don’t start running until January, anyway, but we don’t expect that’s going to be an issue at all. I’m doing full workouts, so nothing really changed.”

Teixeira, 35, was pretty awesome before getting hurt this season. He hit .255/.357/.548 (143 wRC+) with 31 home runs in 111 games while playing the hell out of first base. I felt Teixeira was the team MVP before getting hurt. He was a huge middle of the lineup force.

Injuries are nothing new for Teixeira, who played in only 372 of 648 possible games from 2012-15. Wrist surgery in 2013 was the most significant injury, though he also dealt with calf and hamstring problems. This shin injury is pretty fluky. I mean, what can you do about a foul pitch like that?

Teixeira is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract and hopefully he’ll have himself a big walk year. He’s not stupid, Teixeira knows Greg Bird is in line to take his job, so hopefully he gives the Yankees a lot to think about next summer. First he needs to get healthy and it sounds like things are going well with the shin.

New hitting coach Alan Cockrell says Brett Gardner played through wrist injury in 2015

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

This past season was a tale of two seasons for Brett Gardner. He was tremendous in the first half, hitting .302/.377/.484 (137 wRC+) with ten home runs and 15 stolen bases, which earned him a spot in the All-Star Game. Brett was the only AL player with at least ten homers and 15 steals at the break.

Then, in the second half, Gardner hit a weak .206/.300/.292 (66 wRC+) with only six home runs and five steals. That 66 wRC+ ranked 146th out of 156 qualified hitters in the second half. Gardner was one of the best outfielders in baseball before the All-Star break and one of the very worst afterwards. It was a real uneven season.

During a conference call with reporters yesterday, new hitting coach Alan Cockrell said Gardner played through a wrist injury this past season, which may have hurt his performance. Cockrell served as assistant hitting coach last year and was promoted to the main job earlier this week.

“I know that that bothered him off and on the entire year,” said Cockrell. “I know he was getting some cortisone and some things like that to try to help him, and they did in spurts, but you can only get three (cortisone shots) in a year … (Gardner) downplayed it and I probably shouldn’t up-play it when he downplayed it, but facts are facts. If you don’t have your hands, it’s tough to hit.”

Gardner was hit by a pitch six times this season, including twice in the right wrist. They both happened within a few days of each other too: Aaron Loup plunked him on April 8th, then Wei-Yin Chen got him a few days later on April 13th. None of the other four hit-by-pitches involved Gardner’s wrist. (Yes, I went back through MLB.tv and checked.) Here are the two wrist shots:

Brett Gardner wrist HBPs

On April 13th Gardner took the Chen pitch to the wrist in the first inning and stayed in the game, but he squared around to bunt in his next two-bats because he wasn’t comfortable swinging. Stephen Drew pinch-hit for Gardner in the seventh inning and hit that go-ahead grand slam, so that was cool.

Gardner went for x-rays after the game and they showed only a bone bruise, no fracture. An MRI confirmed the bone bruise diagnosis a few days later. Gardner sat out the next few games, returned to the lineup on April 18th, then mashed the rest of the first half before falling apart after the All-Star break.

We don’t know when Gardner received the cortisone shots. It’s possible they were bunched together in the first half, which kept him productive. Then once he exhausted his three shots, his game fell apart. Who knows. A lingering wrist injury would definitely explain the lack of production. You can’t hit if your hands aren’t strong.

Gardner has had some hit-by-pitch related right wrist injuries in the past. Clayton Kershaw hit him with a pitch back in 2010 …

… and Gardner played hurt the rest of the year. Again, his performance suffered. Gardner needed debridement surgery on the wrist after the season. He hasn’t had any sort of surgery this year, as far as we know.

Gardner didn’t say anything about his wrist in the second half or after the season. I totally forgot he got hit in the wrist until a few days ago, when I wrote the biggest hits post and researched Drew’s grand slam. Cockrell brought it up because he was asked about Gardner’s swoon, and hey, a wrist injury is a perfectly valid explanation.

In fact, I hope it was the wrist, because that would be an easy answer. If Gardner performed like that while being perfectly healthy … yeesh. The wrist at least potentially explains things. I have a very hard time believing Gardner went from an All-Star to a true talent sub-replacement level hitter overnight.

Masahiro Tanaka undergoes surgery to remove bone spur from elbow

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Masahiro Tanaka underwent surgery today to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, the Yankees announced. The team says the “bone spur was pre-existing, dating back to his pitching career in Japan,” and Tanaka is expected to be ready for Spring Training. He will spend the next six weeks rehabbing before beginning a throwing program.

CC Sabathia underwent the same procedure following the 2012 season. He pitched with the bone spur all season, had it removed in the offseason, then returned in Spring Training. The Yankees took it very easy on Sabathia in camp the following year and really limited his workload. If I’m remembering correctly, Sabathia pitched in simulated games more than Grapefruit League games so the Yankees could control conditions.

Tanaka, 26, had a 3.51 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 24 starts and 154 innings this season. He missed several months last year with a partially torn ligament in his elbow, though it did not give him any trouble in 2015. As far as we know, his UCL remains intact. There was no mention of it in the bone spur press release. Tanaka missed a month with a forearm muscle issue this year and one start in September with a hamstring problem. The bone spur is an unwelcome surprise.

Joe Girardi said no players had surgeries scheduled during his end-of-season press conference, so this must be something new. Pitchers pitch with bone spurs all the time because they can be completely asymptomatic, but perhaps it started to bother Tanaka this year, or an end-of-season physical showed it was getting worse. Who knows. Either way, Tanaka had the procedure in New York today and is expected back for Spring Training.