Quick Notes: Sabathia, Higashioka, Kaprielian, Waivers

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

Brian Cashman held his annual end-of-season press conference this afternoon, and while it brought no major news, he did mention some important stuff. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Sabathia having knee surgery. CC Sabathia is having a “routine cleanup” on his troublesome right knee at some point soon. This has been planned for weeks and it’s not a serious concern.
  • Higashioka going on 40-man. Kyle Higashioka will be added to the 40-man roster, Cashman confirmed. Higashioka had a big year in Double-A and Triple-A and forced the issue. He was due to become a minor league free agent after the season.
  • Kaprielian healthy, still trying for AzFL. James Kaprielian is healthy and pitching at max effort, and if all goes well in Instructional League, he’ll report to the Arizona Fall League. He’s officially not on the AzFL roster right now. The league’s website is not correct.
  • Several players on waivers. Without saying who, Cashman acknowledged the Yankees have started their 40-man roster cleanup and placed several players on waivers. We’ll find out the results soon.

I’ll have a full recap of Cashman’s press conference tomorrow. This is only the important stuff.

Update: Both Kirby Yates and Blake Parker were claimed off waivers by the Angels, the Yankees announced. Also, Anthony Swarzak elected free agency rather than accept an outright assignment to Triple-A. So those are the waiver moves Cashman talked about.

Masahiro Tanaka to skip next start with flexor mass strain

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Masahiro Tanaka will not make his scheduled start Monday due to what Joe Girardi called a “slight slight slight” strain in his flexor mass, according to Erik Boland and Mark Feinsand. This is the same thing Andrew Miller had last year. The strain is not near the elbow ligament.

“I’m not worried at all, because I think the team was taking precautions. I don’t feel any pain or anything like that so I’m very confident that I should be able to comeback soon,” said Tanaka to Andrew Marchand. He’ll rest five days before throwing again.

The injury could explain Tanaka’s sudden bout of homeritis in the third inning last night, though he did settle down after that and pitch well the rest of the way. There was no indication he was hurt prior to this. Tanaka’s been pretty awesome all year, and especially of late. Stupid injuries.

The bad news is Tanaka, by far the Yankees’ best starter, had two starts left this season and now he’ll miss one. That won’t help their postseason chances. At the same time, Tanaka is way too important to the Yankees, so they have to play it safe with him. Their playoff odds are long as it is.

The Yankees are very short on rotation depth at the moment with Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chad Green all injured. Girardi indicated they’ll go with a bullpen game Monday. They really don’t have much of a choice.

Jacoby Ellsbury leaves game with right knee injury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Jacoby Ellsbury left this afternoon’s game with a right knee injury, the Yankees announced. He hurt himself crashing into the wall trying to make a catch in the seventh inning. Ellsbury stayed in initially, but he was removed after the inning. He’s heading for tests. Here’s the play:

At this point even a minor injury could end Ellsbury’s season. The Yankees are already without Aaron Hicks (hamstring) and Aaron Judge (quad), so they’re running short on outfielders. They could end up with Mason Williams in center and Rob Refsnyder in right full-time the rest of the way.

The Yankees lost Starlin Castro to a hamstring injury earlier in the game, so they lost two regulars in the span of four innings or so. That would hurt more if the team hadn’t bombed out of the postseason race this week. The exact nature of Ellsbury’s injury is unknown, but we’ll find out soon enough.

Update: Starlin Castro leaves game with hamstring strain

(Photo: AP)
(Photo: AP)

4:54pm: After the game, Joe Girardi told reporters Castro felt a “pop” in his hamstring, which is never good. He’s going to return to New York for tests.

3:51pm: Castro does indeed have a right hamstring strain, the Yankees announced. He’s heading for further tests. Here’s the play:

3:01pm: Starlin Castro left this afternoon’s game with an apparent right hamstring injury. He ripped a double into the gap in the fifth inning, then pulled up lame between first and second. Castro grabbed at his hamstring, so there’s no doubt that’s what’s aching. He was removed from the game immediately. Didn’t even lobby to stay in.

Ronald Torreyes came in to replace Starlin on the bases, and he and Rob Refsnyder would be the obvious candidates to take over at second. It’s worth noting veteran utility infielder Donovan Solano had a tremendous season in Triple-A, and with Scranton’s season over, he could be a short-term option. Creating 40-man roster space wouldn’t be tough.

The Yankees have not yet released an update by Castro, so stay tuned. This one seems like standard “hamstring strain and heading for an MRI” stuff. We’ll see. At this point, even a minor strain could end Castro’s season. That sucks.

Refsnyder and Williams are the Yankees’ best options in the wake of the Judge injury

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
(Ed Zurga/Getty)

Last night the Yankees won the second game of their three-game series with the Dodgers, but they also lost an everyday player to injury. Right fielder Aaron Judge tweaked his right oblique taking a swing, and although he stayed in to finish the at-bat, he was pulled from the game after the inning was over. Judge will go for an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury.

“It’s possible (he’s done for the season),” said Joe Girardi following last night’s game. “It’s his right rib cage. He’ll have an MRI. We won’t see him for a while … I just told him, ‘You’re out.’ I called him over and he didn’t really argue. We’ve got to get this checked out and see where you’re at.”

Judge’s first month or so in the big leagues has been a mixed bag. He’s hitting .179/.263/.345 (61 wRC+) overall with a 44.2% strikeout rate, so for the most part his at-bats have been unproductive. At the same time, every once in a while Judge will do this …

… and remind you exactly why he’s been so highly touted the last few seasons. That’s not even the longest home run Judge has hit in his short time as a big leaguer. He hit one over the windows of the restaurant in center field last month. Between the power and the strikeouts, it’s amazing Judge ever sees a fastball. It really is.

Anyway, the injury means the Yankees are down not only their starting right fielder in Judge, but also their backup right fielder. Aaron Hicks is still out of action with a Grade II hamstring, remember. At the moment the Yankees have only three healthy true outfielders on the active roster: Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Eric Young Jr. That’s it. (I won’t blame you if you forgot about EYJ. I did too.)

Even if the MRI today reveals good news, chances are the Yankees will be without Judge for at least a few days. Oblique strains usually don’t heal overnight. Also, they’re very easy to reaggravate, and Judge isn’t a nobody. The Yankees are going to play it very safe with him. The last thing they want is him to suffer a setback that throws his offseason workouts out of whack. Here are the team’s options with Judge sidelined.

Short-Term Fix

Girardi all but confirmed Rob Refsnyder will step in as the every right fielder for the time being. They really have no other choice. “That’s what I’ll go with now and obviously I’ve got to talk to (Brian Cashman) to see if we’re going to make a move here,” said the manager last night. The only other option is Tyler Austin, who is the most-of-the-time first baseman, so Refsnyder it is.

In sporadic playing time this year Refsnyder has a .268/.342/.333 (81 wRC+) batting line in 159 plate appearances. That’s … unique. He’s drawing walks (10.1%) and making contact (13.2% strikeouts), but he’s also hit for zero power. Refsnyder’s yet to hit a home run and he has only nine doubles too. He works a quality at-bat almost every time up and that’s great. Some extra-base pop would be cool though.

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Hopefully the doubles and homers come now that Refsnyder will get a chance to play everyday. His defense is not great in right field — maybe this will press Young into defensive replacement duty in tight games? — but again, the Yankees are pretty much out of options. Based on the guys they have on the active roster, Refsnyder is the best right field solution.

Returning Soon?

Grade II hamstring strains can be pretty serious and they tend to lead to prolonged absences, but Hicks is already back performing baseball activities. He got hurt on August 31st and he’s already started running in the outfield and taking batting practice. Hicks is going to Tampa later today to ramp up his rehab, and it sounds as though the goal is to activate him off the DL when the Yankees arrive for their series with the Rays next week.

As crappy a year as he’s had, getting Hicks back as soon as next week would be pretty huge. At the very least, he could replace Refsnyder for defense in the late innings. Best case scenario is Hicks picks up where he left off in August — he hit .280/.330/.439 (106 wRC+) in fairly regular playing time last month — and takes over right field everyday. A little friendly competition between Refsnyder and Hicks would be good for both, I think. Either way, there’s a chance Hicks will return as soon as next week. That would be pretty awesome.

The Call-Up Candidate

The Yankees have one outfielder on the 40-man roster who is not in the big leagues right now: Mason Williams. Williams returned from shoulder surgery at midseason and hit .317/.335/.410 (112 wRC+) in 46 regular season minor league games, almost all at Triple-A. Typical Mason Williams, basically. At least when he’s going good. Williams has carried that performance over into the postseason with the RailRiders too.

Girardi acknowledged a Williams call-up was possible last night — “It’s going to be really difficult (with a short bench) … There’s outfielders down there that we’re going to have to talk about because we’re short,” he said — and given where the Yankees are in the postseason race, everything has to be on the table at this point. They surely want Williams to get as many at-bats as possible following shoulder surgery, but playing with a short bench in a postseason race makes no sense.

(Scranton Times-Tribune)
(Scranton Times-Tribune)

Remember, the Yankees originally planned to give Bryan Mitchell one more Triple-A start to iron things out earlier this month, but as soon as Chad Green got hurt, they called Mitchell up because he was the best option. The same applies to Williams. Would they like him to get more at-bats with the RailRiders? Surely. Judge’s injury has forced their hand though, and with a playoff spot within reach, having the best team possible has to be the priority.

Scranton’s season will end no later than Saturday — it can end as soon as tomorrow — and I’m guessing Williams won’t make it that far. He’ll be up before then, perhaps later today. The RailRiders would be pretty screwed during the International League Championship Series, but the big league team is the always the priority. Chances are we’ll see Mason very soon.

The Long Shots

The three other outfielders with Triple-A Scranton are not on the 40-man roster: Clint Frazier, Cesar Puello, and Jake Cave. I can’t see them calling Frazier up a year before he’s Rule 5 Draft eligible. That would be a big time panic move. Puello and Cave are a different story because cutting them loose in the offseason wouldn’t be a big deal. If the Yankees do decide to give Williams more at-bats in Triple-A following surgery, Puello or Cave could get the call instead. This section is called “The Long Shots” for a reason though. I don’t see this happening. Puello, Cave, and Frazier are all options available to the Yankees. They’re not that desperate yet though.

* * *

The Judge injury isn’t devastating — he wasn’t hitting much outside the occasional dinger — but it further thins out the Yankees’ outfield. Refsnyder is a short-term solution and Hicks might be back next week, which would be cool. My guess is we’ll see Williams sooner rather than later too. There’s a clear need and he can be useful, even if he’s only a defensive replacement for the time being. The Yankees may not want to use Refsnyder in right or call up Williams before the end of the Triple-A season, but they’re short on outfielders at the moment, and those two are their best immediate options with Judge and Hicks out.

Update: Aaron Judge exits game with right oblique strain

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

9:01pm: Judge left the game with a right oblique strain and will undergo an MRI tomorrow, the Yankees announced. Well that’s no good. Here’s video of the injury:

8:45pm: Aaron Judge left tonight’s game after the fourth inning with an unknown injury. Replays showed him grimacing after a swing and the trainer did come out to check on him, but Judge remained in the game to draw a walk and run the bases. He was lifted after the inning.

Hopefully the Yankees are playing it safe and only removed their prized young outfielder as a precaution. The team is already without Aaron Hicks, so if Judge misses any time, Tyler Austin and Rob Refsnyder would have to step into right field full-time. There’s also Mason Williams in Triple-A.

For what it’s worth, Judge missed a few weeks with a knee injury in Triple-A earlier this year, which he suffered diving for a ball in the outfield. The Yanks haven’t released an update on Judge, so stay tuned.

Update: Green diagnosed with sprained UCL and strained flexor tendon

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Saturday, 4:58pm: Today’s tests revealed a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor tendon, according to reporters in Baltimore. Green is going for a second opinion. Injuries like that often result in Tommy John surgery, though Green may be able to avoid the knife if the UCL sprain is minor.

Friday, 8:10pm: Green left the game with right elbow pain, the Yankees announced. That’s a big ol’ WELP. Green’s going to head for additional tests and all that.

8:01pm: Chad Green exited tonight’s start in the second inning with an unknown injury. His velocity did seem to be down in his second inning of work, though that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Didi Gregorius called for the trainer and Green exited the game without throwing any test pitches.

The Yankees traded away Ivan Nova at the deadline and Nathan Eovaldi‘s elbow exploded a few weeks ago, so they’re short on starters as it is. They do have Luis Severino available and he would be the obvious candidate to replace Green should he need to miss an extended period of time. Bryan Mitchell is in Triple-A too.

Now, that said, Severino has been pretty terrible as a starter this season, plus the Yankees seemed to be counting on him to improve their middle relief situation these last few weeks of the season. We’ll see what happens. The Yankees have not yet released an update on Green, so stay tuned.