Archive for Injuries

Oct
07

What Went Wrong: Injuries

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The 2013 season is over and we’ve had a week to catch our breath. It’s time to review the year that was, starting with the Yankees’ significant injuries. They pretty much defined the season.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Every single team deals with injuries every single year. It’s impossible to make it through the full 162-game season without losing players to injury, either nagging or severe. Injuries come with the territory and the Yankees had a lot of them in 2013. They didn’t use a franchise record 56 players out of the kindness of their heart — they lost roughly 1,400 man games to injury and used the Major League DL a ridiculous (and MLB-high) 28 times this season. If you wore pinstripes this summer, chances are you got hurt at one point or another.

For the most part, we can fit every injury into one of two categories: predictable and unpredictable. A player rolls his ankle running through first base? Unpredictable. Not necessarily surprising, it happens, but not something you’d expect. But a pitcher with a history of arm problems blowing out his elbow? Yeah that’s predictable. Some guys are so injury prone it’s a matter of when they’ll get hurt, not if. You want to think this is the year they’ll stay healthy — remember when being a full-time DH was supposed to keep Nick Johnson healthy? — but it very rarely is.

The Yankees had a ton of injuries this year, some more devastating than others. We’re not going to focus on the nagging day-to-day stuff or quick 15-day DL stints in this post. We’re going to look at the long-term injuries — both the predictable and unpredictable ones — meaning the guys who missed most or all of the regular season. I’m leaving Alex Rodriguez (left hip) out of this because we knew coming into the year he would be out until at least the All-Star break. I want to focus on the players everyone expected (or hoped) would be on the roster come Opening Day.

Predictable Injury: Derek Jeter
It all started last September, when Jeter fouled several pitches off his left ankle/foot and played through a bone bruise late in the season. In Game One of the ALCS, the ankle finally gave out and fractured. The Cap’n had surgery in October and the initial timetable had him on track for Spring Training and the start of the season. He’s Derek Jeter and he works harder than everyone, so he’ll make it back in time, right? Wrong.

Jeter’s progress in camp was deliberate as he nursed the ankle, and it wasn’t until mid-March that he appeared in his first Grapefruit League game. He played five exhibition games before needing a cortisone shot in the ankle and being ruled out for Opening Day. Here’s the timeline that followed:

  • March 31st: Yankees place Jeter on 15-day DL.
  • April 18th: Yankees announced Jeter suffered a setback — a second (and smaller) fracture in the ankle. He was not expected to return until the All-Star break.
  • April 27th: Jeter is transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Vidal Nuno.
  • July 11th: Yankees activate Jeter off DL. He goes 1-for-4 in his first game back but suffers a calf strain running out a ground ball.
  • July 23rd: Jeter is retroactively placed on the 15-day DL after the calf doesn’t respond to rest and treatment.
  • July 28th: Yankees activate Jeter. He plays five games before the calf starts acting up again.
  • August 5th: Jeter is retroactively placed on the 15-day DL (again) as rest and treatment doesn’t do the trick (again).
  • August 26th: Yankees activate Jeter. He plays 12 games before his surgically-repaired left ankle becomes sore.
  • September 11th: For the fourth time, Jeter is placed on the 15-day DL. The moved officially ends his season. Three days later, the Yankees transferred him to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for David Phelps.

Four DL trips for what amounts to three different leg injuries. Jeter appeared in only 17 of the team’s 162 games and looked pretty much nothing like himself, with little impact at the plate and close to zero mobility in the field. He was never the rangiest defender, but it was especially bad this season. When a 38-year-old shortstop — Jeter turned 39 in June — has a major ankle surgery, you have to expect there to be some delays and complications during the rehab process, even when he has a full offseason to rest.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)

(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Unpredictable Injury: Mark Teixeira
Up until last season, Teixeira was an iron man. He was good for 155+ games played a year every year, but various injuries (cough, wrist, calf) limited him to only 123 games in 2012. With the cough behind him and an offseason of rest for the calf, Teixeira was expected to be as good as new for this season. Then, while with Team USA preparing for the World Baseball Classic, he felt some discomfort in his right wrist and had to be shut down.

The soreness turned out to be a tendon sheath injury, which can be pretty severe if not allowed to heal properly. Teixeira and the Yankees opted for rehab because there was no reason not to — surgery, which was always a realistic possibility, would have ended his season anyway, so might as well try the rehab route first. He did the rest and rehab thing before rejoining the team on the final day of May. Teixeira appeared in 15 games before the wrist started acting up again. On July 3rd, he had the season-ending surgery. No one saw the wrist problem, which was described as a “wear-and-tear” injury, coming.

Predictable Injury: Kevin Youkilis
When it became official that A-Rod needed his hip surgery in early-December, the Yankees had to find a replacement everyday third baseman. The free agent market had little to offer, especially once Eric Chavez decided to move closer to home in Arizona. New York signed Youkilis to a one-year, $12M contract to replace Rodriguez despite his history of back problems.

Not counting four separate day-to-day bouts with spasms from 2008-2010, Youkilis spent time on the DL with back problems in both 2011 and 2012. That doesn’t include some nagging day-to-day stuff between the DL stints either. Sure enough, 17 games in the season, Youkilis’ back started barking. He missed a handful of games with tightness before aggravating the injury on a feet-first slide into first base on a defensive play. That sent him to the DL with a bulging disc. Youkilis returned in late-May and managed to play another eleven games before needing season-ending surgery to repair the damaged disc. For their $12M investment, the Yankees received 118 mostly ineffective plate appearances. Backs don’t get better, then just get worse.

Unpredictable Injuries: Curtis Granderson
Aside from Jeter and A-Rod having surgery in the offseason, the parade of injuries started in the first home game of Spring Training. On the fifth pitch of his first Grapefruit League at-bat, Granderson took a J.A. Happ fastball to the right forearm. Just like that, the Yankees had lost their top power hitter for three months with a broken arm. They’re lucky (in a sense) that the injury occurred so early in Spring Training and Granderson was able to return in mid-May, not much later in the season.

After returning from the DL in the team’s 39th game of the season, Granderson appeared in eight games before another errant pitch sent him to the sidelines. This time it was Rays left-hander Cesar Ramos who did the deed. The pitch broke Granderson’s left hand and would keep him out ten weeks even though the initial diagnosis called for a six-to-eight week recovery time. Curtis returned to the team in early-August and wound up playing in only 61 of the club’s 162 games. Hit-by-pitch injuries are the definition of unpredictable injuries.

(John Munson/Star-Ledger)

Pineda didn’t do much more than this in 2013. (John Munson/Star-Ledger)

Predictable Injury: Michael Pineda
Thanks to last May’s labrum surgery, Pineda was expected to miss the start of the 2013 season but be a factor in the second half. He started an official minor league rehab assignment in early-June and exhausted the full 30 days before the Yankees determined he was not big league ready. They optioned Pineda to Triple-A Scranton in early-July and less than a month later, he came down with shoulder tightness. Although tests came back clean, the tightness all but assured we wouldn’t see him in pinstripes for the second straight season. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman said during his end-of-season press conference they shut Pineda down as a healthy player after more than a year of rehab and pitching just to get him rest. Given the nature of the injury, it was no surprise the right-hander was slow to return and ultimately a non-factor in 2013.

Unpredictable Injury: Frankie Cervelli
Thanks to some throwing improvement in Spring Training and the fact that Chris Stewart can’t hit, Cervelli took over as the team’s everyday catcher early in the season. He started 16 of the team’s first 22 games, but in that 16th start, Rajai Davis fouled off a pitch that hit Frankie square in his exposed right hand. His suffered a fracture and was expected to miss at least six weeks … until he suffered a stress reaction in his elbow during rehab. The stress reaction supposedly stemmed from a change in his throwing motion to compensate for the hand injury. Cervelli was suspended 50-games for his ties to Biogenesis in August but that really didn’t matter; the elbow injury had ended his season anyway. Catching is brutal, but a broken hand on a foul tip is still not something you can see coming.

Predictable Injury: Travis Hafner
You name it, and chances are it sent Hafner to the DL at some point in recent years. Most notably, he missed almost the entire 2008 season due to right shoulder surgery. The same shoulder started barking this summer, first in mid-May and then again mid-July. It’s probably not a coincidence his production completely tanked after the first bout with soreness. Hafner was placed on the DL in late-July and missed the rest of the season, for all intents and purposes. He was activated for the last few games of the season but only played in one. Pronk visited the DL seven times from 2008-2012, so it’s no surprise he wound up there in 2013.

Categories : Injuries
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Via Andy McCullough: Boone Logan had surgery on Thursday to remove a bone spur from his left elbow. We first heard he needed the procedure about three weeks ago. Logan is expected to begin a throwing program in December and should be ready for the start of Spring Training. Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery in Florida.

Logan, 29, had a 3.23 ERA and 3.82 FIP in 39 innings this year. He told McCullough his elbow started aching in Spring Training — he was delayed at the start of camp due to a then-unspecified reason — and it continued all season, forcing him to throw fewer sliders. The PitchFX data backs that up*. Logan will be a free agent this winter and since his elbow ligament is fine, I think he’ll still be able to find a deal in Sean Burnett (two years, $8M) to Scott Downs (three years, $15M) range. No idea if the Yankees will look to bring him back, but he has some interest in returning.

* “Fewer sliders” is a relative term. He still threw 40.4% sliders this year, which was the 16th highest rate among all pitchers (min. 30 IP). Last year he threw 51.4% sliders (!), the seventh highest rate in baseball. No wonder his elbow started barking.

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Via Mark Feinsand: Left-hander Boone Logan will have surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow this Thursday. He is due to become a free agent this offseason and is expected to be ready in time for Spring Training. We first heard he needed the procedure about two weeks ago.

Logan, 29, pitched to 3.23 ERA (3.81 FIP) in 39 innings across 61 appearances this year while holding left-handers to a .215/.274/.377 (.281 wOBA) line with a 40.0% strikeout rate. It’s unclear if the surgery will affect how teams value him this winter — tests confirmed the ligament is fine — but the going rate for top lefty relievers is in the three-year, $12M range. We haven’t heard anything about whether the Yankees will try to retain Logan, who has been their best lefty reliever since Mike Stanton.

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Wednesday: The Yankees have indeed activated Hafner, the team announced. Sabathia was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.

Tuesday: Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees are planning to activate Travis Hafner off the 60-day DL on Wednesday. They’ll have to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate him, but that won’t be an issue. CC Sabathia is a 60-day DL candidate thanks to his hamstring injury.

Hafner, 36, hasn’t played since late-July because of a shoulder injury. He hit .205/.300/.384 (86 wRC+) with 12 homers in 293 plate appearances before getting hurt. It’s an inconsequential move in the grand scheme of things, but teams can’t just leave a healthy player on the DL indefinitely. Welcome back, Pronk. Make yourself useful these last five games.

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See you in Tampa, CC. (Presswire)

See you in Tampa, CC. (Presswire)

CC Sabathia suffered a Grade II strain of his left hamstring in his last start and is done for the season, the Yankees announced. The recovery time is eight weeks and he is expected to be ready for Spring Training. Brian Cashman confirmed to Dan Martin that Sabathia suffered the injury in the second inning of Friday’s start against the Giants but “pitched through it.”

Sabathia, 33, must have hid the injury if it happened in the second inning. I doubt Joe Girardi & Co. would keep sending him out there if they knew he was hurt. CC has been terrible overall this year, pitching to a 4.78 ERA (4.10 FIP) in 211 innings across 32 starts, his seventh straight season of 200+ innings. The Yankees didn’t need to come up with some kind of injury excuse if they wanted to shut Sabathia down — even if they did, they wouldn’t come up with something as severe as a Grade II hamstring strain — so this is legit. You know, for all you conspiracy theorists out there.

The Yankees had already rearranged their rotation for the upcoming Rays series and Sabathia was scheduled to start Wednesday night. That start figures to go to the Phil Hughes/David Huff tandem instead. The team does need to come up with a starter for Saturday’s game now, so they could either split up the Hughes/Huff tandem or give the ball to someone like Brett Marshall or Adam Warren. I doubt David Phelps is an option at this point. He had not thrown more than two innings in a simulated game before being activated off the DL last week.

Because of expanded rosters, Sabathia will not technically be placed on the DL. Obviously a Grade II strain would be a DL-worthy injury had it come earlier in the season. Sabathia was on the DL twice last season (groin strain, elbow inflammation) and had offseason surgery both last year (bone spur in elbow) and the year before (meniscus tear in right knee). Outside of oblique strains in 2005 and 2006, he was almost perfectly healthy for the first ten years of his career. Sucks he’s breaking down now.

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Via Andy McCullough: Austin Romine is still dealing with concussion symptoms and isn’t ready to return to the team. He has been given the okay for light workouts, but those aren’t going well. “I think (the ball is) going to be one place and it’s another place, or I’ll do something I’m always used to doing and I won’t catch it,” he said. “I know my body. I know what I can do. So when I do stuff I’m not used to doing, I’m like ‘What the heck?’ I don’t want that to happen in a game.”

Romine, who missed time with a much more serious concussion suffered during a home plate collision in 2011, added: “Mainly, it’s my health. I’m not going to go out there and risk permanent damage, a worse concussion, possibly die. It’s a pretty serious injury. And two, I’m not going to go out there and screw my team. I’m not going to miss a ball with a guy on third, because I’m trying to suck it up and go out there. I’m better for the team if I don’t go out there.”

The 24-year-old Romine has been sidelined for eleven days after taking a foul tip to the mask in Baltimore. He has hit .207/.255/.296 (47 wRC+) in 60 games overall this season, but he was far more productive after the All-Star break and before the injury (105 wRC+ in 23 games). With only eight games left in the year and a microscopic chance of making the postseason, the Yankees should just shut Romine down. Brain injuries are nothing to screw around with.

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Via George King: Joba Chamberlain asked for Tommy John surgery two years ago even though Dr. James Andrews said the procedure was not necessary. “I could turn a doorknob and rub my head and people said I couldn’t do that [with a torn ligament]. [Andrews] said he didn’t operate on healthy arms … For me it was a matter of getting it done and knowing it was fixed,” he said.

Chamberlain, 27, was originally diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon and then a torn medial ligament, which is different that the ulnar collateral ligament repaired by Tommy John surgery. He said he played long-toss and felt soreness after being told he didn’t need his elbow reconstructed, which is when he decided to go ahead with the procedure. Usually guys try to avoid surgery at all costs — most notably Matt Harvey right now — but I guess Joba felt it was inevitable and wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible.

In 62.1 innings since returning from surgery last August, Joba has a 4.33 ERA and 4.81 FIP. He had a 3.95 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 100.1 innings from 2010-2011 after moving back into the bullpen and before having his elbow rebuilt.

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After visiting with Dr. James Andrews in Florida, Boone Logan has been diagnosed with a bone spur in the back of his elbow. The ligaments are intact. Logan will need surgery in the offseason and is expected to be ready in time for Opening Day. He played long-toss today and hopes to return to the team later this week. Until then, Cesar Cabral will be Joe Girardi‘s go-to matchup lefty.

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Via Joel Sherman: Left-hander Manny Banuelos recently started pitching in simulated games as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. Three weeks ago we heard he was facing hitters in live batting practice down at the team’s complex in Tampa. Simulated games are a bit more intense though because you’re actually trying to get outs and throw full 15-20 pitch “innings” with no break between batters.

Banuelos, 22, had his surgery last October and the Yankees have been conservative with his rehab. Simulated games usually come 8-10 months after surgery according to Mike Dodd’s classic Tommy John rehab article, but Banuelos is already into his 11th month of rehab. No big deal really, he was expected to miss the entire season and the team has every reason to play it safe. Banuelos has missed close to two full years with elbow problems — he threw only 24 innings last year before getting hurt — and those are two pretty important development years at his age.

Banuelos’ winter ball rights are still control by his former Mexican League team in Monterrey, so the Yankees would have to jump through some hoops if they want the southpaw to get some innings over the winter. They did work out an agreement with Monterrey allowing him to pitch in the Arizona Fall League a few seasons ago. Bench coach Tony Pena usually manages in the Dominican Republic over the winter, so maybe they can figure out a way to get Banuelos there so he’s under a watchful eye.

Categories : Asides, Injuries, Minors
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10:15pm: It’s a tight right calf for A-Rod, the Yankees announced. Not the hamstring. Phew, I was getting worried they would go more than two games without a new injury.

9:46pm: Alex Rodriguez was pinch-hit for and left tonight’s game in the fifth inning for an unknown reason. He’s been battling a nagging hamstring injury that has limited him to DH duties only, so that seems like a pretty good reason. So it goes.

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