Injury Updates: Nova, Pirela, Capuano, Ryan

Pirela. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Pirela. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Tigers will play the third game of their four-game series a little later tonight. Until then, here are some injury updates via Marly Rivera, George King, Chad Jennings, and the Associated Press.

  • Ivan Nova (elbow) threw two innings of live batting practice yesterday. He threw 20 pitches, sat down for a few minutes, then threw 15 more pitches. Nova is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Friday, which will be his first game action of any sort since having Tommy John surgery last April. He’s on track to return in June.
  • Jose Pirela (concussion) went 1-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday, which was his first game action since getting hurt. He played third base and stayed in the game after getting plunked. Pirela is scheduled to play seven innings at second base today.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) is scheduled to throw two innings in an Extended Spring Training game today. It’ll be his first game action since getting hurt in Spring Training. Capuano is looking at a mid-May return at the moment.
  • Brendan Ryan (calf) was able to field ground balls and take batting practice yesterday. I believe that is the first time he’s done any sort of baseball activity since getting hurt in Spring Training.
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Injury Updates: Gardner, Nova, Capuano, Pirela, Ryan

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

The Yankees and Rays continue their series later tonight, so, until then, there are some updates on various injured Yankees courtesy of Chad Jennings, Bryan Hoch, and the Associated Press:

  • Brett Gardner (wrist) was going to stay in last night’s game to hit after pinch-running, if necessary. “I was prepared if my spot came up in the ninth to get a normal at-bat and get up there and swing the bat,” he said. Gardner came through several rounds of batting practice just fine and should return to the lineup today.
  • Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) threw 20 pitches in his second live batting practice session yesterday. “I’m getting closer. Feels awesome,” he said. Nova expects to throw batting practice two more times next week before getting back into games. Joe Girardi said they’re shooting for May 1st for Nova’s first minor league rehab start.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) threw live batting practice Thursday and will do so again tomorrow. Girardi said Nova and Capuano are “pretty close” with regards to their timetable, but Capuano is “slightly ahead.”
  • Jose Pirela (concussion) is going through all drills and hit against Capuano on Thursday. He’ll play in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday. Girardi was noncommittal when asked if Pirela will join the big league team once healthy.
  • Brendan Ryan (calf) “might” go to Tampa next week to begin going through baseball workouts. It depends how he feels in the coming days.

Chris Capuano faces hitters for first time as he works his way back from quad strain

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Forgotten left-hander Chris Capuano faced hitters for the first time yesterday as he works his way back from a Grade II right quad strain suffered early in Spring Training, reports George King. He threw a round of live batting practice at the team’s complex in Tampa.

Capuano, 36, injured his quad covering first base in his second start of the spring, so he basically has to go through an entire Spring Training before rejoining the Yankees. Fill-in fifth starter Adam Warren is scheduled to start tonight’s game, and it seems like he will make at least four more starts given Capuano’s timetable.

Although Capuano was signed to be the fifth starter, I don’t think he’s guaranteed a rotation spot when he returns if everyone is healthy and Warren is pitching well. Capuano could slide into a relief role and give the Yankees some bullpen stability after they cycled through four pitchers for the final spot in the last week alone.

By no means is Capuano a staff savior or anything, but pitching depth is never a bad thing and he can help the Yankees in some capacity. Perhaps they will speed up his timetable and bring him back as a reliever before he’s fully stretched out, say after three tune-up games or something. We’ll see.

Game Nine: Eovaldi For The Series Win

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

The Yankees tried and failed to win their first series of 2015 last night, but they have another chance in the rubber game against the Orioles tonight. The last time the Yankees lost three straight series to start the season was that awful 1991 season, when they didn’t win their first series of the year until mid-May. I feel like we’ve said “this is the first time the Yankees have done that since 1991″ an awful lot the last few years.

Anyway, Nathan Eovaldi will be on the mound tonight, making his second start in pinstripes. The first was uneven — Eovaldi showed a big fastball and promising offspeed pitches, but struggled to put hitters away. Then again, everyone’s struggled to put the Red Sox away this year it seems. Hopefully the free swinging O’s have a tougher time with Eovaldi tonight. Here’s the starting lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. DH Alex Rodriguez
  7. 2B Stephen Drew
  8. LF Chris Young
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

The Orioles are sending right-hander Bud Norris to the mound. He got clobbered in his first start of the season by the Rays, allowing eight runs in three innings. Here is Baltimore’s lineup.

There’s no threat of rain at Camden Yards like last night. It’s cool and cloudy without only a slight breeze. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Brett Gardner (wrist) told Chad Jennings he feels “much better today” and expects to return to the lineup Friday. He is available pinch-run and play defense tonight … Joe Girardi told reporters both Chris Capuano (quad) and Ivan Nova (elbow) are progressing well in their rehab. Capuano could be back within a month.

Roster Moves: The Yankees have called up RHP Branden Pinder for tonight’s game, the team announced. RHP Joel De La Cruz was optioned to Double-A Trenton to clear a roster spot. Also, RHP Kyle Davies was outrighted to Triple-A Scranton after being designated for assignment the other day.

Yankees finalize Opening Day roster with latest round of roster moves

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

3:25pm: The Yankees have officially announced their Opening Day roster. It is exactly as presented below. No surprises.

10:00am: The Opening Day roster has been slowly coming together over the last several weeks, and yesterday afternoon the Yankees made the roster all but official with their latest round of moves, including Austin Romine being designated for assignment. Here is the 25-man roster the Yankees will take into the regular season tomorrow:

CATCHERS (2)
Brian McCann
John Ryan Murphy

INFIELDERS (7)
Stephen Drew
Didi Gregorius
Chase Headley
Garrett Jones
Gregorio Petit
Alex Rodriguez
Mark Teixeira

OUTFIELDERS (4)
Carlos Beltran
Brett Gardner
Jacoby Ellsbury
Chris Young

STARTERS (5)
Nathan Eovaldi
Michael Pineda
CC Sabathia
Masahiro Tanaka
Adam Warren

RELIEVERS (7)
Dellin Betances
David Carpenter
Chris Martin
Andrew Miller
Esmil Rogers
Chasen Shreve
Justin Wilson

DISABLED LIST (4)
Chris Capuano (quad) — retroactive to March 27th
Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) — retroactive to March 27th
Jose Pirela (concussion) — retroactive to April 2nd
Brendan Ryan (calf) — retroactive to April 1st

Pirela was placed on the 7-day concussion DL while Capuano, Nova, and Ryan were all placed on the regular old 15-day DL. Petit takes Romine’s spot on the 40-man roster, which is full. The Yankees can transfer Nova to the 60-day DL whenever they need another 40-man spot since he’s not expected to return until June. Romine, Petit, and the DL assignments were the moves announced yesterday.

Despite those injuries, the Yankees made it through Spring Training as the healthiest team in the AL East, just as we all expected. The rest of the roster is pretty straight forward. Warren was named the fifth starter a few days ago and it was clear Shreve and Martin were going to make the Opening Day roster once Chase Whitley was optioned to Triple-A. Joe Girardi is planning to use Betances and Miller as co-closers to start the season, which is pretty cool. Hopefully it works as planned. Carpenter and Wilson figure to be the sixth and seventh inning guys.

As always, the 25-man roster is going to change throughout the course of the season. Quite a bit too. Petit figures to be replaced by Pirela or Ryan, whoever gets healthy first, and those bullpen spots belonging to Shreve and Martin could be revolving doors given the team’s relief pitcher depth. That includes Capuano, who could wind up working in relief if Warren fares well as the fifth starter. For now, this is the group of Yankees to start the new season.

The Cheap Flexibility and Competency of Chris Capuano [2015 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

After a generally successful 12-start cameo in pinstripes late last year (4.25 ERA and 3.85 FIP), veteran southpaw Chris Capuano returned to the Bronx this offseason on a one-year contract worth $5M. He was reportedly considering playing in Japan before the Yankees called. New York re-signed Capuano for depth, basically. He’s serviceable and relatively cheap, someone who can fill-in as the fifth starter until something better comes along.

Unfortunately, the 2015 season is not off to a good start for Capuano. He suffered a Grade II right quad strain covering first base last week and will be out of action for a few weeks, including the start of the regular season. The Yankees are currently sorting through several options — most notably Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers — to take over as the fifth starter, at least temporarily. Capuano figures to return in mid-to-late April and is a not insignificant piece of the pitching staff.

Yankees Need: Get Healthy!

First and foremost, the Yankees need Capuano to get healthy and come back from the quad strain. It’s not an arm injury — Capuano’s had plenty of those in his career, including two Tommy John surgeries — but the timing stinks. Once healthy, Capuano will basically have to go through Spring Training to get stretched out. The Yankees can accelerate that to some degree, but it’ll be an extended process. It’ll take two or three weeks for Capuano to get ready once the quad is healthy at a minimum.

Capuano Can: Get Healthy, Eventually

The quad injury is just one of those fluky baseball injuries. Capuano hurt himself covering first — it looked like the injury happened right as he hit the bag, but who knows — and that can happen to anyone. He doesn’t need surgery, it’s not his arm, it’s nothing complicated like that. Capuano just needs to rest and wait, that’s all. It is worth noting he is 36 years old, however. Older players tend to need a little longer to get over injuries than younger players. Perhaps that mid-to-late April timetable is really more like late-April/early-May.

Yankees Need: Be Flexible

I don’t think Capuano is guaranteed a rotation spot once the quad is healthy. He might get Wally Pipp’d. If Warren or Rogers or whoever gets the fifth starter’s spot pitches well early in the season, the Yankees won’t take them out of the rotation. Capuano was signed to be a placeholder until someone better came along, and the quad injury may have simply sped up the process. If someone does take a firm hold on that last rotation spot early in the season, Capuano would step into a relief role. (No, I don’t think the Yankees would release him. They aren’t in position to cut a starting pitcher.)

Capuano Can: Start Or Relieve

Pitching out of the bullpen would not be a new experience for Capuano. He signed with the Red Sox as a reliever last year and pitched out of their ‘pen early in the season before falling apart in early-June and getting released. (Capuano was sitting on 1.95 ERA and 3.10 FIP on June 1st last year.) Capuano also pitched briefly in relief for the Dodgers in 2013 and did it with a Brewers a few years ago.

Pitching out of the bullpen won’t be a new experience for Capuano, so I don’t expect flexibility to be an issue. He also doesn’t seem like someone who would make a big stink about being moved to the bullpen either. Everyone wants to start and I’m sure Capuano is no different, but if the team asked, I think he’d go down to the ‘pen and do his job like a professional. In fact, Capuano could be the perfect swingman, pitching in long relief and occasionally making a spot start when the Yankees want to give the other starters an extra day of rest.

Yankees Need: Just Don’t Melt Down

No one is expecting Capuano to dominate. Not you, not me, not the Yankees. The Yankees are just hoping for competence, which is what Capuano gave them in his 12 starts last year. Expectations are pretty low. Capuano just needs to be serviceable, soak up some innings in whatever role, and not completely melt down. Be better than Vidal Nuno was in pinstripes last year (5.42 ERA and 5.17 FIP), basically. I’m certain the Yankees would take what Capuano gave them in 2014 across the full season in 2015 and be happy with it.

Capuano Can: Be Serviceable

Even when you include his June meltdown with the Red Sox, Capuano had a 4.35 ERA (3.91 FIP) in 97.1 innings last year. He had a 4.26 ERA (3.55 FIP) in 105.2 innings for the Dodgers the year before and a 3.72 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 198.1 innings for the Dodgers the year before that. That all works out to a 4.01 ERA (94 ERA+) and a 3.83 FIP in his last 401.1 innings. Is that good? No, not really. It’s not a disaster either. It’s fifth starter/swingman material.

Of course, Capuano is now moving into Yankee Stadium full-time, and he is a year older, so the wheels could come off at any moment. That’s why he got a one-year deal, not a two or three-year deal. Capuano pitched decently in his 12 starts last year and his peripherals held steady. What more do you want? There’s no reason to think Capuano is on the verge of falling off a cliff other than age, and, as a soft-tossing lefty, he’s the kind of guy who can pitch forever as long as his arm holds up. I don’t care about strikeout rates, walk rates, or anything like that with Capuano. Get outs and keep runs off the board, I don’t care how. I believe he can still do that at a rate in line with the last three years.

Chris Capuano’s injury complicates pitching situation and creates an opportunity

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two batters into yesterday afternoon’s game, the Yankees lost left-hander Chris Capuano for what is expected to be several weeks with a Grade II right quad strain. It was a fluke injury — Capuano was covering first base on a ground ball and landed awkwardly on the bag. That’s all. Not exactly an uncommon baseball injury.

The big problem here is Capuano was supposed to be one of the starters who didn’t get hurt. We were all supposed to start the year waiting for Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow to give or CC Sabathia‘s knee to crumble while complaining about Capuano slopballing is way through five or six innings every fifth day. Capuano was supposed to be the guy who stayed healthy.

“We’ll look at everyone, that’s the bottom line. Because we need to fill a spot now,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings following yesterday’s game. The Yankees will now dip into their pitching reserves to bolster the rotation early in the season, something we expected to happen pretty much all winter. We just didn’t think they’d be replacing Capuano. Here’s a look at the team’s options at the moment.

Internal Options: Warren, Rogers, Mitchell, Whitley

Adam Warren, Esmil Rogers, Bryan Mitchell, and Chase Whitley are all working as starters in camp for this exact reason: to be ready to step into the rotation if needed. Others like Luis Severino, Jose DePaula, and Scott Baker are in camp as non-roster players and yeah, I guess that makes them rotation candidates, but I get the sense they are deep depth options, not guys being seriously considered for the Opening Day rotation.

Warren was mentioned as a rotation candidate every time a starter got hurt last season and for whatever reason I get the sense this spring he’s the guy the Yankees want to use as a starter if necessary, and it is necessary now thanks to Capuano’s quad. Warren’s been successful as a reliever these last two years but he has enough pitches to start, came up through the system as a starter, and it seems like the Yankees believe he can be an effective MLB starter.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

At the same time, both Girardi and Brian Cashman recently went out of their way to praise Rogers, who spent a few years floundering as a starter with the Rockies earlier in his career. “(Rogers has) thrown the ball really well. Larry (Rothschild) worked with him long and hard last year during some bullpen sessions about changing a few things … He’s been really good this spring. He’ll be one of the guys we’re really looking at,” said Girardi to Jennings yesterday, for example.

Mitchell probably has the best raw arm of the group but is the most green of the bunch. He could use some more time in Triple-A to iron a few things out, particularly his fastball location. Whitley had a nice little run as a starter last year before the league figured him out, though he has three pitches, and as long as he has three pitches, the Yankees might as well keep working him as a starter.

The Yankees have only played a week’s worth of Grapefruit League games, so none of these guys have had a chance to jump to the front of the pack yet. Besides, Spring Training performance isn’t — or shouldn’t be, anyway — the only factor in this decision. My hunch is this four-man race is really a two-man race between Warren and Rogers. It’s their job to lose, not someone else’s to win.

External Options? Probably Not Happening

When Yu Darvish blew out his elbow a few days ago, Rangers GM Jon Daniels said they will fill his rotation spot internally. When Marcus Stroman tore his ACL earlier this week, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said they will replace him internally. That’s the standard operation procedure time of year. Everyone says they will replace injured players internally because saying “we’re going to make a trade” just isn’t smart business. It makes you look desperate.

Like it or not, the Yankees are not going to trade for Cole Hamels because Capuano got hurt. (Hamels is the kind of move that gets made regardless of the status of guys like Capuano.) They’re probably not going to take on $5.3M in salary and give up a prospect to get Dillon Gee either. The Yankees might scour the scrap heap for an out of options arm — Mariners changeup specialist Erasmo Ramirez is also out of minor league options and another name to keep in mind — these next few weeks, but I don’t expect a move to bring in a no-doubt big leaguer.

Remember, when starters were dropping like flies early last year, the Yankees cycled through their internal options to make sure they did need to go outside the organization for help before actually doing so. I expect the same this year. They might pluck someone off waivers or make a minor trade for depth, but a significant move isn’t happening. At least not right now. Their M.O. in recent years has been to try internal options first.

The Schedule

Thanks to the usual slate of early-season off-days, the Yankees only need their fifth starter three times in April. Opening Day is April 6th, so based on the above calendar they will need their fifth starter on April 12th, 21st, and 26th. They won’t need him again until May 5th either. So only three times in the first 26 games of the season. Capuano might be ready to return by then.

Now, that said, the Yankees have already been talking about occasionally using a sixth starter early in the season to give guys like Tanaka, Sabathia, and Michael Pineda extra rest. I’m guessing they aren’t too enthusiastic about the idea of riding their top four starters hard in April and skipping the fifth spot whenever possible. They could do it, sure, but they have to think big picture here. A few more starts by the fifth (and sixth?) starter in April could mean many more Tanaka, Sabathia, and Pineda starts in August and September.

So yes, the schedule does give the Yankees the flexibility to skip their fifth starter a few times in April. That doesn’t mean it would be a good idea, however. The Yankees have played it very cautiously with Tanaka and Sabathia so far this spring and I don’t expect them to change course just because Capuano got hurt. The fifth starter, whoever it ends up being, is probably going to end up taking a regular rotation turn early in the season.

What About The Bullpen?

If the Yankees do end up using Warren or Rogers to replace Capuano in the rotation, it opens up another spot in the bullpen. They already had one open coming into Spring Training. This is no big deal though. If there’s one thing the Yankees have in spades, it’s relievers. They have about a dozen candidates for those last bullpen spots: Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, Andrew Bailey, Danny Burawa, Chris Martin, Chasen Shreve, Jose Ramirez, Jose DePaula, Jared Burton, Nick Rumbelow, Tyler Webb, Wilking Rodriguez … on and on it goes. They’ll find someone to fill the necessary bullpen spots. No worries here.

* * *

Capuano’s injury is unfortunate, though the silver lining is that he is the team’s most replaceable starter. The Yankees also don’t have to replace him today. Spring Training doesn’t end for another three and a half weeks. It’s not like they need to come up with his replacement in time for his start next week or something like that. They can take their time, see how every looks with some more innings under their belt, then make a decision.

The majority of RAB readers believe Warren will get the call to replace Capuano based on yesterday’s poll and I agree. I just feel like he’s the guy. I do expect the Yankees to keep an eye on any pitchers who may become available before Opening Day — they were going to do that anyway, Capuano injury or not — but I would be surprised if they made anything more than a minor move. That just hasn’t been the way they’ve operated in recent years. Capuano’s injury means someone who is already with the Yankees is about to get a big opportunity in the rotation.