Archive for Kevin Youkilis

Jul
17

2013 Midseason Review: Grade F’s

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We’ve spent some time dissecting the team’s performance through the first half of the year. Mike wrote about the A’s, the B’s, and the C’s while I covered the D’s. Let’s wrap this up with the F’s and incompletes.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Every championship-caliber team has a group of individuals who go above and beyond, who perform incredible feats in incredible moments. These are the players who carry the team on their shoulders through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the players listed in this post are not those guys!

No, instead we’re going to discuss the “F” team. These are the retreads. These are the players that we, as fans, wish we did not have to watch on a daily basis. These guys are the ones who make us cringe, curse, and grind our teeth for three hours or so a night on a daily basis.

The Shortstops
Ah, yes, the shortstops. Jayson Nix. Alberto Gonzalez. Luis Cruz. Reid Brignac. Eduardo Nunez*. You’ve all been awful. For simplicity’s sake, let’s refer to the old table.

2013 NYY SS

It’s sad, really. The Yankees shortstops have collectively posted a .241 wOBA and a 44 wRC+ (-1.2 fWAR). Relative to the rest of the league, this production (or lack there of) is ranked second worst in all of baseball.

While power is certainly a bit of a rarity from the shortstop position, it is both saddening and mildly surprising (at least to me) that this group, together, has only managed two (!) homeruns thus far. Hell, even the Marlins have three (though to be fair, the Cardinals and the White Sox both have one, and the Rangers none). I think, more than anything, what this tell us is a) how fortunate the Yankees are to have had Derek Jeter all these years, and b) how even a super-star in decline (like Derek Jeter or A-Rod perhaps) can still be a really preferable option to the alternative much of the time.

If the Yankees expect to reach the playoffs, they’ll need more from these guys, plain and simple. We’re not talking Troy Tulowitzki production (though that would be okay too), they just can’t be well-below replacement level. Right now, the shortstop position is a black hole in the lineup and it’s noticeable.

* I was a little torn about whether Nunez belonged in the “Grade F” group or with the “Incompletes.”  At the end of the day I chose to throw him in with this lot which is probably a bit unfair. Nunez had a really great opportunity to prove his valuable to the team early on when it became obvious that Jeter would not be available for much of the year, and simply has not capitalized on his opportunity. Anyway you look at it, Nunez’ season has to be deemed a disappointment thus far. Of course, if you feel it’s unfair to give him a letter grade given his limited playing time, that’s fine too.

The Third Basemen

2013 NYY 3B

Next stop on the depressing infield tour is third base. It’s ugly. Really ugly. The good news is that the Yankees third basemen ranked higher relative to the league than their shortstop counterparts. The bad news is it’s not by much. They rank fourth worst in all of baseball with only the Twins, Blue Jays, and Brewers trailing. The group has managed to hit six home runs collectively (over 625 plate appearances) and has batted to a .219/.279/.295 (.256 wOBA, 56 wRC+) line. They haven’t taken many walks (6.2 BB%) though they have struck out at fair pace (25.8 K%), and as already mentioned, power has been a scarcity.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

The culprits hear are pretty obvious. Kevin Youkilis was the super non-durable (and super desperate) backup plan to Alex Rodriguez. Even prior to his back injury, which ultimately sidelined him for the year, he looked pretty shot. He was getting an awful lot of weak ground outs down the third base line.  His patented patience never really surfaced and he basically looked uncomfortable at the plate from moment one. I suppose if you’re generous you can give him a pass if you want to call his season “incomplete” too. I’m not that generous though. He’s getting an “F” in my book.

From there you can talk about Nix, who really has been used way more than he probably should be in an ideal scenario. Frankly, he was getting exposed out there. He’s an adequate fill in on occasion, but he’s not a starter. If the Yankees keep throwing him out their day in and day out, they should expect below replacement level production. As for Adams, I wrote a while back that we should temper our expectations. Well, our expectations certainly have been tempered. After an impressive hot streak following his big league arrival, he’s basically looked lost at the plate for months. There was a pretty clear reason why was he was optioned to AAA.

Austin Romine
I hate seeing the young guys come up and struggle even though they do it most of the time. I mean, it has to be tough making the transition. After a lifetime of hard work, a prolonged stay in the Majors simply doesn’t pan out for many. For others, it’s a precious window that closes quickly. Very few stick around for an extended period of time, and even fewer make a big impact. That’s not to say Romine won’t enjoy a successful MLB career, but he’s had a pretty rough start.

At this point, Romine has batted .160/.182./.213 (.176 wOBA, 0 wRC+) and has been worth -0.4 fWAR.  He’s taken basically no walks (1.3 BB%) and has struck out 22.8% of the time. This includes zero home runs. Of course, he’s only had 79 plate appearances. Joe Girardi‘s been unable to play Romine because he’s been awful in limited opportunities. It seems like this has probably been fairly detrimental to Austin’s confidence (and the team’s confidence in him). Romine, on the other hand, really hasn’t been able to bounce back because he rides the bench almost full-time. On the plus side, when he is in the game, he puts forth solid defense for the most part.

When I think about Romine’s predicament, I ultimately arrive at one point: the Yankees were not adequately prepared at catcher, and Romine was probably not ready to be a big leaguer when he was brought up. He missed substantial time during his minor league development due to back injuries in 2011 and 2012, and really never had the chance to progress at a typical pace. He was thrown onto the big league roster when Francisco Cervelli went down, and backup catcher Chris Stewart became the primary backstop. Maybe we should be apologists for Romine. Maybe we shouldn’t be. Either way, he’s been pretty abysmal through the first half.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Joba Chamberlain
It appears as though the Joba Chamberlain saga is finally coming to a rather inglorious end. The once heralded prospect turned elite setup reliever, turned failed starter, turned back into not-quite-so-elite reliever will likely be gone by the trade deadline, or if not, most certainly by the off-season. Although Joba spent some time this season on the disabled list with a strained oblique, there were no massive setbacks to deal with like Tommy John surgery or an ankle dislocation.

As for Joba’s pitching stats, they speak for themselves (negatively). Through 22.1 innings pitched, he’s produced a 5.24 ERA (5.03 FIP). Joba’s strikeout rates are definitely respectable, as they generally are (8.87 K/9), but he’s given up way more walks (4.3 BB/9) than normal. He’s also seemed way more prone to the long ball (1.61 HR/9) than he has in the past. While I’m sure Joba wasn’t delighted about losing his eighth inning gig to David Robertson a couple seasons ago, I’m sure he’s been pretty disheartened this year about losing the seventh inning job as well. In fact, he’s no longer really being used in any high leverage situations, mostly just mop up duty at this point. Instead of responding to the challenge positively, Chamberlain has taken a step backward. As David Cone noted on Sunday afternoon’s brutal loss to the Twins, he looks like isn’t throwing with any conviction.

I do believe Joba is a better pitcher than what we’ve seen this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned things around in the second half whether with NY or somewhere else altogether. Not to bludgeon a dead horse much further, I also believe the Yankees have mishandled Joba for a few years now, which in turn has hindered him to some degree. Ultimately though, Chamberlain needs to be accountable for his production, which has been pretty lousy. Basically, this seems like a sad ending to what otherwise could have been a promising career in pinstripes. In any event, I think the relationship between Joba and the organization has soured, which is a shame.  Such is life.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

The Incompletes
Mike and I were originally thinking of dedicating a separate article to the walking wounded. This includes Derek Jeter (ankle, quad), Mark Teixeira (wrist), Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand), A-Rod (hip), and Cervelli (hand, elbow). What is there really to say though? Injuries have decimated this team.

Would the Yankees be six games back out of first place if these guys weren’t all injured? Maybe. I have to believe though they’d be much more formidable. I suppose it’s appropriate to throw Zoilo Almonte into the mix as well. While he’s been a breath of fresh air offensively with all the quality at bats, he hasn’t been around all that long. After a torrid start, he’s since cooled somewhat, and who knows what he’ll happen from here (though if I had to guess, I’d say he’ll turn back into the AAAA guy I expected).

The team could have absorbed extended injuries to one or two of these guys perhaps. Having them all out basically all season has been a nightmare though. Who knows how long Jeter will be sidelined with this most recent setback, or whether A-Rod will face a big suspension. Granderson’s basically a non entity at this point. All we do know is that the guys who have been brought on board to supplement the production of these big names aren’t getting it done. While we can’t grade these players on game performance, I think we can say it’s been a very disappointing season for them (and the team) in terms of injuries.

Categories : Reviews
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The Yankees have claimed first baseman Travis Ishikawa off waivers from the Orioles, the team announced. I assume he’ll join the big league team to give Lyle Overbay a proper backup and Joe Girardi a left-handed bat off the bench. Kevin Youkilis was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot. I’m guessing David Adams will go back to Triple-A to clear a 25-man roster spot.

Ishikawa, 29, went 2-for-17 (.118) for Baltimore earlier this year. They called him up after he exercised an opt-out clause in his minor league contract. Ishikawa hit .316/.413/.525 (156 wRC+) in 208 Triple-A plate appearances this year, including a .331/.434/.568 line against righties. He’s a career .260/.324/.399 (93 wRC+) hitter in 857 big league plate appearances, which is broken down into .262/.330/.409 (97 wRC+) against right-handers and .244/.281/.322 (61 wRC+) against lefties. Ishikawa is out of options and can not be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers. Finally, a usable bench bat.

Categories : Asides, Transactions
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Kevin Youkilis will miss 10-12 weeks following surgery to correct a herniated disc in his back, the team announced. He will have the procedure on Thursday. There’s a decent chance we won’t see him again this year or in pinstripes ever again.

Youkilis, 34, hit .219/.305/.343 (77 wRC+) with two homers in 118 plate appearances for New York this year. He has missed a bunch of time back trouble this year (one month), last year (two months total), and the year before that (three weeks). This isn’t surprising at all. Backs rarely get better. The three-headed replacement level monster of David Adams, Jayson Nix, and Reid Brignac will continue to rotate around the left side of the infield for the time being.

Categories : Asides, Injuries
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The Yankees announced a series of roster moves this afternoon, so let’s recap:

  • Kevin Youkilis has been placed on the 15-day with a lumbar strain. That’s the same back injury that send him to the DL earlier this year. He woke up with numbness in his right foot and will see a specialist. Not the most surprising news in the world, hopefully the injury explains his lack of production.
  • Thomas Neal and Chris Bootcheck have both been called up from Triple-A Scranton. We heard both moves were coming earlier today. Neal will primarily DH against lefties while Bootcheck gives the bullpen a fresh long reliever.
  • Adam Warren has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton. He threw 85 pitches across six innings in yesterday’s 18-inning marathon, so he was the obvious send down candidate to clear to a roster spot for a fresh arm.
  • To clear spots on the 40-man roster for Neal and Bootcheck, the Yankees have transferred Eduardo Nunez to the 60-day DL and outrighted Cesar Cabral to Double-A Trenton. Because Cabral cleared waivers, the Rule 5 Draft rules no longer apply and he is officially Yankees property with no strings attached.
  • Obviously, David Adams remains with the team with Youkilis hitting the DL.
Categories : Injuries, Transactions
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The Yankees have officially activated both Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis off the 60-day and 15-day DL, respectively, the team announced. Vidal Nuno and Ivan Nova were sent to Triple-A to clear 25-man roster spots. The Yankees had two open 40-man roster spots, so they didn’t need to make another move to accommodate Tex.

With Andy Pettitte set to turn on Monday, Nuno was an obvious send down candidate. Nova threw 61 pitches on Wednesday and was going to out of commission for another day or two anyway, so he was the other move. I assume both guys will step into the Triple-A Scranton rotation and start every five days. When Pettitte returns, the Yankees are likely to demote a position player — David Adams seems most likely now that his bat has cooled off — and get back to a normal 13 position players, 12 pitchers roster.

Categories : Asides, Transactions
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Got seven questions and six answers this week, so the answers aren’t crazy long. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us whatever, whenever.

Paul: Kevin Youkilis to the OF? He’s played there before (albeit only 22 games and not really recently). Any chance David Adams has been shagging fly balls during BP recently?

Oh hell no on Youkilis. Aside from what will very likely be awful defense — as you can see above, he has played left field in Yankee Stadium before, rather lolingly at that –  I’m not sure I want a 34-year-old with a history of back problems running around the outfield day after day. Stick him at third base and be done with it, no need to needlessly complicate things.

Adams has zero outfield experience as a pro and from what I can tell, he never played it in college either. I’m guessing he didn’t play it in high school as well because of the unspoken “best player plays shortstop unless he throws left-handed” rule. I haven’t seen any reports of him shagging fly balls lately — he has taken ground balls at shortstop, but that’s not unusual — so I’m guessing the Yankees don’t consider him much of an option out there. I don’t see any outfield help coming until Curtis Granderson‘s pinky heals up.

Jeb asks: As unlikely as this is to happen, suppose that draft day is rather chaotic and there is a top-15 talent available for each of the Yankees’ first round picks (e.g. Ryan Stanek, Austin Meadows, etc.). Would you select each of these high-caliber guys and not worry about how to sign them, or would you perhaps take two and then go for some guys who likely would have lower demands to ensure that you can sign your top two picks?

This is very unlikely as you said, but this is where the new draft pool system would really screw a team over. The top 15 picks are all slotted at over $2.2M apiece, so those guys were expecting large bonuses. The Yankees have a touch less than $7.96M to spend this year, which probably isn’t enough to sign three top-15 guys even going super cheap with $10k senior seniors in rounds two through ten.

Given the team’s need to add impact talent to the system, I’d hope they would just blow through the draft pool number and get the three players signed. It’s an extreme circumstance and you can’t pass up a haul like that. The Yankees can spend up to $8,753,140 before forfeiting a future first round pick (that would come with a $596,805 tax) and up to $9,151,010 before forfeiting a future first and second round pick ($1,193,610 tax). If they could add three legit top-15 guys, they’d have to grab them and get them signed. It it costs a pick next year, so be it. They never have access to those guys.

Mike asks: What could the Yankees get in a trade for Lyle Overbay when Mark Teixeira returns? Who would be a potential trading partner? The draft is on my mind, what about a competitive balance pick?

Ryan asks: With Teixeira going on a rehab assignment and very close, what teams may have a need/interest in Overbay? They will likely keep him for a little bit to make sure Tex is healthy, but what might a trade look like, what kind of a return might they get?

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Might as well lump these two together. I do think the Yankees will hold onto Overbay for at least a few weeks while they make sure Teixeira’s wrist is healthy and he’s in the clear. He’d be a bench bat/part-time starter at first and DH, basically.

As good as he’s been, Overbay is still just a 98 wRC+ first baseman who can’t hit lefties. There usually isn’t a huge market for those guys, but I could see clubs like the Marlins, Mets, Brewers, and Rockies having some interest. Obviously injuries could create more openings, and that includes the Yankees. If they could get one of those competitive balance picks — #34-39 and #69-73, and they are tradeable between now and the draft — I’d take it and run. Otherwise I think the Yankees would be lucky to get a C-prospect out of Overbay in a trade. He’s been better than expected but still below-average overall. The demand just isn’t that great.

Matt asks: Which Yankees FA from last offseason (Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez) would you most like to have back, given their current performances and the injuries/general awfulness of their replacements?

All of the above? If I had to pick one, I’d go Swisher over Martin even though he plays the less important position because the Yankees really need offense and he’s the better offensive player. I think the difference between Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki is greater than the difference between Martin and Chris Stewart. Chavez has quietly been awesome by the way (153 wRC+) — he did leave yesterday’s game hurt — and I didn’t think he’d do it again. Good for him.

Michael asks: Could you write a post where you explain exactly how a simulated game “plays?” For instance, are there nine fielders? Are they playing at 100% or is it simply a way for the pitcher and hitter to do their work? Are there two discrete sides playing and changing between batting and fielding? Is the pitching coach calling balls and strikes? And so on … Thanks.

It’s glorified batting practice, basically. There’s a pitcher (with no L-screen) and usually two batters (one lefty and one righty) alternating at-bats in simulated “innings.” No fielders, and a coach will call balls and strikes and declare balls in play hits or outs or whatever. The pitcher will sit down for 15 minutes after getting three “outs” before going out for the next inning. The players are supposed to play at 100%, but you can’t truly simulate the adrenaline levels of a big league game. It’s just a way to get work in.

Bernie asks: How many wins do the Yankees have when trailing in the 7th or later and how many did they have all of last year? Has to be close?

I’ve spent more time on Baseball-Reference than I care to admit over the years, yet I always seem to be finding stats and info I didn’t know they had. Win-loss records when leading after a specific inning are one of those things I discovered within the last few weeks, so I can actually this question.

The Yankees are just 3-19 (.136) when trailing after seven innings this year, which is better than the league average winning percentage (.104). Small sample size, yadda yadda yadda. Last season they went 9-58 (.134) when trailing after seven, so a negligible difference. It’s basically the same pace. This year’s team does, however, already have more wins when trailing after eight innings (two) than last year’s team (one).

Categories : Mailbag
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In their second minor league rehab game with Double-A Trenton, Mark Teixeira (wrist) and Kevin Youkilis (back) both went for 1-for-3 in seven innings of work. Teixeira grounded into a double play while Youkilis plated a run. Brian Cashman confirmed yesterday both players will rejoin the big league team on Friday if this game went well, and it appears it has. Obviously nothing will be official until tomorrow either way.

Categories : Asides, Injuries
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1:03pm: Brian Cashman told Josh Norris the plan is to indeed have both Teixeira and Youkilis back with the big league team on Friday. Both have to make it through tomorrow’s game fine first, obviously.

12:39pm: In their first minor league rehab games with Double-A Trenton, Mark Teixeira (wrist) and Kevin Youkilis (back) both went 0-for-2 with a walk in a planned seven innings of play. Teixeira struck out swinging and popped up to the shortstop in his two at-bats, and his only defensive plays at first base involved receiving throws from other infielders. Youkilis popped up to the first baseman in foul territory and was robbed of a base hit on a nice play by the right fielder, fielding just one ball — a soft line drive — at third base.

Both Teixeira and Youkilis will play for the Thunder again tomorrow night, and I assume they’ll play a full nine innings. The official word from the team is that both will be re-evaluated after that game, but there have been hints both could be activated off the DL in time for Friday’s game against the Red Sox.

Categories : Asides, Injuries
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(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Later this morning, Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis will play their first minor league rehab games with Double-A Trenton. Teixeira has been sidelined since early-March with a wrist injury, Youkilis since earlier this month with a back problem. Both players will spend today and tomorrow with the Thunder, and the Yankees have been dropping hints that both could be activated on Friday if everything goes according to plan. Obviously they’ve yet to say anything officially.

The Yankees have scored a total of five runs in their last three games, and for the month of May they’re averaging just 3.7 runs per game. The AL average is 4.5 runs per game this year. Getting Teixeira and Youkilis back on the same day would be a major boost to the lineup, at least in theory. The problem is that neither guy fill a position of real need right now. Lyle Overbay and David Adams have been competent at worst and rock solid at best at the corner infield spots, where Tex and Youk will ply their trades. They will be upgrades, but first and third bases are hardly problem areas right now.

The true problem areas are catcher, shortstop, and right field. Here, look at this mess (stats don’t include last night’s game, which don’t make it any better anyway):

  • Catcher: .239/.300/.380 (92 OPS+) in 183 plate appearances
  • Shortstop: .213/.289/.290 (69 OPS+) in 196 plate appearances
  • Right Field: .225/.277/.342 (66 OPS+) in 204 plate appearances

That’s three below-average to well-below-average spots in the lineup on any given night, not counting the black hole Vernon Wells has become. The lack of offense at those spots isn’t a “surprise, injury!” thing either. The Yankees willfully replaced Russell Martin and Nick Swisher with inferior players this offseason, and Derek Jeter‘s injury was known way back in October. The team decided Eduardo Nunez and various scraps would be good enough should the 38-year-old icon not heal exactly on schedule.

There is no immediate help coming to shore up those three positions. Jeter has yet to resume baseball activates following his setback and isn’t expected to return until sometime around the All-Star break. Curtis Granderson saw a specialist about his fractured left pinky yesterday and will be shut down a minimum of four weeks, meaning he’ll likely miss at least six weeks when you include rehab games and all that. Frankie Cervelli will head to Tampa later this week to continue rehabbing from his fractured hand, but he has yet to begin throwing a ball or anything like that.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Assuming Youkilis and Teixeira make it through their Trenton assignments okay and are indeed activated on Friday, I think the Yankees will clear room on the roster by optioning Brennan Boesch and a pitcher to Triple-A Scranton. It makes sense to get the 13-man pitching staff down to a normal dozen, and I guess it’ll be one of Ivan Nova, Shawn Kelley, and Preston Claiborne who goes down. Seems obvious it should be Nova, no? The other two have been solid and Nova could start every five days in a non-results-oriented environment to work on things.

That leaves the Yankees will a four-man bench of Jayson Nix/Reid Brignac, Adams, Overbay, and the backup catcher. Nix, who has a handful of big league appearances in left and right fields, would be the de factor fourth outfielder. Overbay would be a spot starter at first base and DH as well as being Joe Girardi‘s go-to lefty bat off the bench. Adams would be the backup second and third baseman, and would probably see plenty of action against lefties.

Carrying what amounts to three first base/DH types in Teixeira, Overbay, and Travis Hafner is far from ideal, but I get the sense the Yankees want to keep Overbay around until they know Teixeira’s wrist is in the clear. Not only did Girardi say they plan to ease Teixeira back into the lineup earlier this week, but wrists are tricky and generally easy to re-injury. I doubt they want to dump Overbay only to have Teixeira go down a week or two later. It’s an imperfect roster, but I assume it would only be a short-term thing.

The returns of Youkilis and Teixeira will improve New York’s offense, especially against left-handed pitchers. Like, super duper improve against lefties. It would help if they played positions other than first and third, but that’s life. The Yankees need all the lineup help they can get right now and aren’t in a position to beg. There are no solutions for those catcher, shortstop, and right field problems on the horizon though, so the offense will continue to be a problem even after the two big corner bats return in a few days.

Categories : Injuries
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(John Munson/Star-Ledger)

(John Munson/Star-Ledger)

Got a trio of injury updates to pass along…

  • Michael Pineda (shoulder) will throw 50 pitches in an Extended Spring Training game tomorrow. Brian Cashman has said they want to stretch him out to 65 pitches before sending him out on an official rehab assignment. Seems like the earliest possible return is late-June. [Jack Curry]
  • Travis Hafner (shoulder) will take batting practice before tonight’s game. If that goes well, he will be available off the bench as a pinch-hitter. The Yankees will face left-hander Mark Buehrle on Friday, so I guess the earliest Pronk will return to the lineup is Saturday. [Meredith Marakovits]
  • Joba Chamberlain (oblique) is not yet ready to come off the DL. He’ll make at least one more minor league rehab appearance with Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees swapped Brett Marshall for Dellin Betances today, just to add a fresh arm to the bullpen. [Bryan Hoch]

Update: Chad Jennings has lots more injury news, so let’s recap…

  • Derek Jeter (ankle) was checked out recently and although he’s healing well, he’s still not ready to do any sort of baseball activities. He could shed his walking boot soon, however.
  • Ivan Nova (triceps) will pitch in a minor league game on Monday. He felt some discomfort in his back last week, near his left shoulder, so he’s been setback a bit.
  • Alex Rodriguez (hip) hit off a tee and soft toss the other day. It’s slow and stud with him, a minor league rehab assignment is still a long ways off.
  • Kevin Youkilis (back) has also been hitting off a tee and soft toss, and he’s expected to take batting practice soon. Seems like David Adams‘ audition at third base will last for at least a few weeks.
Categories : Injuries
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