Injury Updates: Eovaldi, Drew, Headley, Ellsbury


The Yankees and Orioles will play a split doubleheader later today following last night’s rainout. The first game will begin a little after 12pm ET. Here are some important injury updates via George King, Meredith Marakovits, and Ryan Hatch.

  • Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) threw a bullpen session yesterday, his first since going down with inflammation. “Everything felt great. I threw 25 pitches, 18 fastballs and seven splits,” he said. Eovaldi will throw a 35-pitch bullpen session Monday, and if that goes well, he’ll then face hitters in live batting practice or a simulated game. There is no chance Eovaldi will be available for the wildcard game Tuesday, but Joe Girardi acknowledged an ALDS roster spot “is something we will look at” should the team advance.
  • Stephen Drew has a “vestibular concussion” and he is unlikely to return this year, even if the Yankees go deep into October. “Right now (his return is) doubtful because he still has the symptoms,” said Girardi. That’s a shame. Drew wasn’t great this season, but you never want to see anyone’s season end due to injury, especially a brain injury. Also, this more or less guarantees Brendan Ryan will be on the postseason roster as the backup infielder.
  • Both Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury are scheduled to play one game of today’s doubleheader. Both were sidelined Thursday with back soreness but were available off the bench if necessary. “They are both better,” said Girardi. Headley said he wants some at-bats this weekend and not have such a long layoff before the wildcard game.

Building the Wildcard Game Roster: Position Players


The Yankees are in position to clinch a wildcard spot very soon, possibly tonight, so it’s time to start thinking about the wildcard game roster. Earlier today we sorted through the pitching staff, trying to figure out which ten or eleven pitchers the Yankees will carry in the wildcard game. It was easier said than done.

Ten or eleven pitchers — my guess is ten, but you never know — leaves 14-15 position player spots to fill. Joe Girardi will have a decent-sized bench at his disposal, but ideally it won’t come into play too much. The starting lineup will decide the game. As we did with the pitchers, let’s go through the position player group and try to figure out who will be on the wildcard game roster next Tuesday.

The Locks

This is the easy part …

Catcher: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy
First Base: Greg Bird
Second Base: ???
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
Third Base: Chase Headley
Outfield: Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran
Designated Hitter: Alex Rodriguez

That’s nine of the 14-15 position player spots right there and they’re all self-explanatory right? Right. That is eighth-ninths of the starting lineup and the backup catcher. All easy calls. Next.

Second Base

For most of the summer, Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan platooned at second base. That is no longer the case. Drew has been dealing with some dizziness/concussion issues that may end his season, but even before that Dustin Ackley wrestled the starting job away from him. Ackley got some playing time, hit right away, and he’s continued to play against right-handers.

Meanwhile, Rob Refsnyder has started each of the Yankees’ last four games against left-handed starters, not Ryan. Chances are Refsnyder will start against lefties Wade Miley, Rich Hill, and Wei-Yin Chen the next three days too. Like Ackley, he got a few at-bats, got some hits, and has received more playing time. That Drew/Ryan platoon was together for 140 games or so. The last 16 have gone to Ackley/Refsnyder.

Smackley. (Presswire)
Smackley. (Presswire)

At this point there is no doubt Ackley will be on the wildcard roster. The rest of the guys is where it gets tricky. Refsnyder is starting against lefties, but would the Yankees actually start him in the wildcard game if they face, say, Dallas Keuchel or Scott Kazmir or Cole Hamels? I get the sense Girardi would stick with Ackley in that situation and just roll with his best player.

If Refsnyder’s not going to start the game, then what’s his role? Pinch-hitter against a lefty reliever. That’s all. I guess he could pinch-run too, but there figure to be other guys on the roster to do that. Refsnyder’s not going to come in for defense. Pinch-hitter against a lefty is a big deal though! It could be the difference in the late-innings of a close game. Given the extra bench spots, I think Refsnyder’s in.

With Ackley and Refsnyder on the roster, the Yankees will need to carry a shortstop-capable backup infielder. Neither of those guys can play short. Not even in an emergency. That leaves a spot for Drew or Ryan. In a vacuum, I’d take Drew over Ryan eight days a week and twice on Sundays. But Drew isn’t healthy and we shouldn’t count on him getting healthy before the wildcard game. He’s still dealing with this dizziness/concussion stuff and has been for almost two weeks now. That puts Ryan on the wildcard game roster along with Ackley and Refsnyder.

The Pinch-Runner

Rico Noel will be on the wildcard game roster. I’m sure of it. One of the benefits of shrinking the pitching staff in the postseason is creating an open roster spot for someone just like Noel. A burner who can come off the bench to pinch-run in the late innings of a close game. Look at Rico run:

The kid can fly and his speed can potentially have a huge impact in the wildcard game. The Yankees brought Noel up this month strictly to pinch-run and I fully expect him to be on the postseason roster. Remember, they carried Freddy Guzman on the postseason roster in 2009 for this exact reason. Noel’s on the wildcard roster. I have no doubt about it.

(Since he wasn’t called up until September 1st, Noel will technically have to be an injury replacement. The Yankees have two position player injury spots available thanks to Mark Teixeira and Mason Williams.)

The Backup Outfielder

Noel will be on the wildcard game roster but he’s not really a backup outfielder. He’s a pinch-runner and that’s all. (The scouting reports indicate Noel is a pretty good defender, but the Yankees haven’t used him defensively all that much.) The Yankees will still need to carry a legitimate backup outfielder if for no other reason than to replace Beltran for defense in the late innings. Chris Young, who is the only righty hitting outfielder on the roster, held that job all season and I expect him to be on the wildcard roster. I know he’s stumped lately, but there’s no reason to think the Yankees won’t carry Young in October. In fact, I’m not sure how you can look at the 39-man active roster and saying Young doesn’t belong on the wildcard game roster. He’s in.

The Final Roster Spot

We still have one last roster spot to fill. The nine locks above plus Ackley, Refsnyder, Ryan, Noel, and Young gets us to 14 position players. I suppose the Yankees could carry eleven pitchers, but I doubt it. It was hard enough coming up with ten pitchers worth a spot on the wildcard roster. One last position player makes sense.

There’s no point in carrying three catchers, so Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are out. The remaining candidates are Jose Pirela and Slade Heathcott, assuming Drew is indeed done for the year. With Refsnyder on the roster, there’s no need for Pirela, another righty hitter. Yeah, Pirela can play the outfield if necessary, but he’s an emergency option out there only. Noel and Ackley are available as emergency outfielders. I also think Pirela would have played more this month if he was a serious wildcard game roster candidate.

Slade. (Presswire)
Slade. (Presswire)

That leaves it between Heathcott and a possibly but not likely healthy Drew. If Drew is not over high dizziness/concussion symptoms by next week, this questioned gets answered for us. In the unlikely event Drew is healthy though, would it make sense to carry another infielder or another outfielder? I think an extra outfielder makes more sense. Between Ackley, Refsnyder, and Ryan, you’ve got the second base starter and two backups. The only backup outfielder is Young considering Noel’s job is pinch-running.

Heathcott gives the Yankees another potential pinch-runner — he’s no Rico, but he’s faster than Young or Refsnyder — and another quality defender, as well as a left-handed bat on the bench. In fact, Drew and Slade are the only possible lefty bats off the bench, and one’s hurt. Besides, if Drew is healthy, it’s Ryan or Heathcott, not Drew or Heathcott. I’d take Heathcott over Ryan.

With Slade on the roster, the Yankees would have two backup infielders even without Drew (or Ryan), and Heathcott at least has a chance to contribute offensively and defensively. I mean, if Drew’s healthy and on the roster, what’s the point of Ryan? What does he offer in a winner-take-all game? I’d expect neither guy to actually play in the game, but, if pressed into action, it’s easy to see Slade having more potential impact than Ryan.

So after all of that, here’s the 25-man wildcard game roster we’ve kinda sorta pieced together today:

Catchers (2) Infielders (7) Outfielders (6) RHP (5) LHP (5)
McCann Bird Gardner Masahiro Tanaka (SP) Andrew Miller
Murphy Ackley Ellsbury Dellin Betances Justin Wilson
Gregorius Beltran Adam Warren Chasen Shreve
Headley Young Andrew Bailey Chris Capuano
A-Rod (DH) Heathcott Nova/Severino/Pineda CC Sabathia
Refsnyder Noel (PR)

Remember, the Yankees can change their 25-man roster prior to the ALDS should they advance, and they’ll have to change it too. They’d need to get more starting pitchers on the roster. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. One thing at a time.

That appears to be the best 25-man roster the Yankees can carry in the wildcard game. Maybe not the most talented, but the most useful given the circumstances. We’re not planning for a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. It’s one game. One stupid little game where anything can happen. Hopefully Girardi won’t have to use anyone beyond the nine starting position players, Beltran’s defensive replacement, Tanaka, and the big three relievers. That’s the best case scenario. If the Yankees need to dip any deeper into their wildcard game roster than that, then, well, just hang on tight.

Stephen Drew’s season likely over due to dizziness and concussion symptoms


Yesterday afternoon, both Stephen Drew and Joe Girardi acknowledged Drew’s season may be over due to his ongoing dizziness and concussion symptoms. He’s gone for tests which ruled out “serious stuff” but showed a problem with his vestibular system, the inner ear system that controls balance and eye movements.

“From the MRI, the good news is they were basically checking some serious stuff and that showed negative, but on the concussion side it’s kind of leaning toward that,” said Drew to Fred Kerber. “They’re going to do some more tests and try to figure it out and go from there because of the way I’m feeling … It’s more or less the vestibular. They’re trying to pinpoint it. There is no time frame. I could wake up tomorrow and feel really good.”

Drew, 32, has not played since last Tuesday and has only played nine innings in the field (three at-bats) in the last 15 days. Part of that is Dustin Ackley taking over as the starting second baseman, but Drew has been dealing with this dizziness for about ten days now. He said he believes it happened during the doubleheader with the Blue Jays, when a ground ball deflected off his glove and hit him in the face.

“You go back on the play when the ball deflected off the glove and hit me in the face. I don’t think much about it and keep playing. It just progressed, got worse. It’s that play. There was nothing else in the season,” said Drew. He missed time with a concussion with the Red Sox in 2013 and had vestibular problems as well. “That’s the symptoms I’ve been having. With the vestibular, when I had it in ’13 it was really severe.”

Girardi said the Yankees are “playing it like we’re not going to have him” the rest of the season, which makes sense. Drew said there hasn’t been much improvement in recent days and the season ends Sunday, so there’s not much time for things to improve. You don’t want a player to rush back from a possible concussion either. It’s a brain injury, remember. You don’t mess around with those.

Assuming Drew’s season is over, he finishes the year having hit .201/.271/.381 (76 wRC+) with 17 homers in 428 plate appearances, which is quite bad. His defense in his first year as a full-time second baseman was fine, more than fine really, but I’m not sure any level of defense makes up for making an out nearly 73% of the time. Drew was worth the $5M flier but it didn’t work out. So it goes. The Yankees have a good second base situation right now.

Yanks have found a productive new second base platoon late in the season

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

For much of the summer, we couldn’t help but focus on second base. The Yankees are locked into their starters at every other position and Stephen Drew was unproductive for long stretches at a time, so finding an upgrade was a reasonable idea. Whether that upgrade was Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela or a trade target, it made sense to look for a new second baseman.

Instead, the Yankees stuck with Drew all summer and he’s put up a .201/.271/.381 (76 wRC+) batting line in 428 plate appearances. That’s a long leash. Drew platooned with Brendan Ryan for much of the second half, and while Drew’s production ticked up later in the summer, the No. 9 spot in the lineup was still an eyesore. For the most part the rest of the offense picked up the slack, allowing the Yankees to carry the Drew/Ryan platoon and their defense.

The second base picture has changed over the last two weeks or so. Trade deadline pickup Dustin Ackley, who got hurt almost immediately after being acquired, returned from the DL and hit his way into a regular lineup spot. Ackley has been really awesome in an extremely limited number of at-bats. He’s holding his own in the field — to be fair, he is being lifted for a defensive replacement on the regular — and taking aim for the short porch. It’s working.

Ackley has wrestled the starting job away from Drew, and lately Joe Girardi has been using Refsnyder against lefties. Refsnyder started against the three White Sox lefties over the weekend, started against Eduardo Rodriguez last night, and will probably start against Wade Miley and Rich Hill in the coming days as well. Refsnyder has hit in his recent limited action — 5-for-12 (.417) with a double — even though the Yankees aren’t scoring a ton of runs.

“It’s a kid that in the past has swung pretty good against left-handers and since we’re seeing so many of them, I put him in there. He’s done a decent job,” said Girardi to Ryan Hatch. Outside of a four-game cameo back in July, the Yankees didn’t Refsnyder much of a chance this season, not even earlier this month, but they’re doing it now and it’s better late than never. Ackley? He took the job from Drew almost immediately after getting healthy. That happened even before Drew’s bout with dizziness and a possible concussion.

The Yankees have gone from six games up in the AL East on August 1st to five games down today, and a tumble down the standings like that wouldn’t have been prevented by changing second baseman earlier this season. Too much other stuff has gone wrong. The new second base platoon can help the Yankees going forward though, and at this point of the season that means October. The Yankees will clinch a wildcard spot in the coming days in all likelihood.

“I think it’s too early (to talk about the postseason second base situation). We’ve liked the way (Refsnyder)’s swung the bat and defensively he’s done a good job, so I’ll continue to give him more opportunities,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings over the weekend. My guess is lefty or righty, Ackley will start the wildcard game at second base because Girardi will simply go with his best players. It would be a real shock to me if the kid with 30-something big league at-bats started a winner-take-all game.

The offense has been stumbling of late and, for once, it’s not because of second base. The unproductive Drew/Ryan platoon has been replaced by Ackley/Refsnyder, who’ve both hit. Will it last? Who knows. It’s working right now and that’s all that matters. The season ends Sunday and the postseason is right around the corner. It only has to work for a few more weeks. The Yankees finally have a new second base platoon, and it’s better late than never.

Game 156: 10,000?


As a franchise, the Yankees are currently sitting on 9,999 wins. Tonight is their first chance to join the 10,000 win club, which includes the Giants, Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Braves, Reds, and Pirates. Those seven clubs have all been around since the 1880s though. The Yankees didn’t come along until the early-1900s. At .569, the Yankees have by far the best winning percentage in baseball history. The Giants are a distant second at .538.

Getting that 10,000th win tonight would be pretty cool, but, more importantly, it would whittle the magic number for a postseason spot down to two. There was some fancy math going around earlier today saying the Yankees can clinch a spot tonight, but that’s not actually the case. The scenario presented– Yankees win and Astros or Angels lose — completely ignored the Twins and failed to take into account how the tiebreaker games for the AL West would fudge things up. Whatever. Just win, baby. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Ivan Nova

It has been pretty cloudy in New York all day but there is no rain in the forecast tonight, so that’s good. Later in the week? Eh, rain might be an issue then. Hope not. Tonight’s game is set to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (hamstring) ran and performed fielding drills for the first time since getting hurt … Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) played catch again but will not be ready for the wildcard game. He could rejoin the team for the ALDS should they advance, however … Stephen Drew, who has played eight innings in the last two weeks, has been dealing with dizziness and went for concussion tests. There’s no timetable for his return just yet.

Rotation Update: Tanaka apparently came through all his workouts well, because the Yankees announced he is starting Wednesday. That allows him to start the wildcard game with an extra day of rest next week. Michael Pineda will start tomorrow and CC Sabathia goes Thursday. Sabathia would be able to start the wildcard game on regular rest if Tanaka can’t go. They could also go with Pineda on two extra days of rest (that would require a spot starter in Game 162). Hopefully that’s not necessary.

The (Non) Acquisition

Drew. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Drew. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

At various points during the 2015 season, we’ve been fed up and “done” with multiple players. Didi Gregorius‘s first few weeks in pinstripes were far from smooth. Carlos Beltran looked deep fried, extra crispy, well done and every other overcooked food metaphor you can think of during the first month of the season. Then, there’s Stephen Drew, a player who has, can, and will draw ire from Yankee fans in a variety of different ways for a variety of different reasons. This outrage, however mild or vitriolic, is not unfounded. There’s no denying that Drew had a wholly awful season in 2014 no matter how you slice it and started of 2015 just as poorly.

Though he showed some pop with five homers between April and May of this year, Drew hit just .157/.225/.301/.526. He also suffered from an unfathomably low .164 BABIP in that time, though his exit velocity in the beginning of the season was below league average, hinting that hard contact wasn’t quite his thing (aside from the homers, of course). Drew’s dreadful start to the season prompted many fans–myself included–to wonder when the Yankees would cut bait with Drew and make a change at second base. The team certainly had options, with the trade market available and Rob Refsnyder hanging in the minors; he even got a call up and a brief audition during a weekend series with the Red Sox. A trade never happened and the Yankees didn’t call up Refsynder (for the long-term, that is), but the Yankees were right to hold onto Drew as the starting second baseman, even after that dismal beginning tacked onto a poor end to 2014.

It was remarkably frustrating to watch Drew during April and May, but the non-trade was defensible. Though there were trade possibilities, we have no idea what the Yankees did or what the market actually looked like. While it’s likely that Refsnyder will be better than Stephen Drew was during those first months, in the short term, a guy getting his first exposure to MLB is likely to suffer from non-ideal play. It’s a moot point since the time has passed, but it’s definitely possible that Refsnyder, in the short term, would’ve been just as bad or worse than Drew at the plate during his first extended time in the majors. That also ignores defense, which Drew is pretty good at and Refsnyder has a bad reputation with.

And even if it wasn’t really a trade or a signing or a promotion, the Yankees did get a new second baseman on June 1. From that point on, Drew has hit .246/.317/.473/.791 (compare that to the .715 league average OPS for an AL 2B). This is something I–and others–have been parroting for a while now when I see the lingering complaints about Drew’s play. Due to that awful start, everyone seems ready to jump on him whenever he has a poor at bat. Did this come out of no where? Sort of, given how terrible he was at the end of 2014 and the beginning of this year. But there were promising signs in those early struggles.

During the first two months, he did have a walk rate of 8.2% and and ISO of .144. Neither one of those numbers is outstanding, but neither is bad. He also so a solid 4.04 pitches per plate appearances, so he wasn’t giving away at bats; the results just weren’t there. Since June and his turnaround, Drew has a similar walk rate of just over 9% and an ISO of .227, much better than the first two months. The basic underlying things were there for Drew and the Yankees recognized them and held onto Drew. Now, given his second half surge, the Yankees do look pretty smart for holding onto him at second.

Had the Yankees made a change–like trading for Ben Zobrist or someone similar–I would not have been mad or even reacted in any sort of negative way. However, this does serve as a reminder that most of the time, we are not as informed as the organization is and we do not know nearly as much as we think we do. This isn’t to say that teams should be free from blame or criticism, but rather that we should remember we have no where near as much information or context as the teams do. Their reluctance to let go of Drew was not stubbornness. Their reluctance to let go of Drew was not hanging onto a sunk cost for the sake of saving face. It was a calculated decision made with knowledge of the alternatives. The organization clearly didn’t think that any internal replacements, like Refsnyder, would outperform drew and that any external replacements, like a trade or signing, wouldn’t be worth the cost. It’s likely that the Yankees saw the underlying numbers and data that pointed to a rebound for Stephen Drew and they made the choice to stay with him and it paid off.

Poll: The Second Base Situation

Drew. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Drew. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon, the best available second baseman came off the board when the Athletics shipped Ben Zobrist to the Royals for two pitching prospects. The Yankees reportedly had interest in Zobrist, it just didn’t come together. For shame. Zobrist was a perfect fit for the Yankees and I was really hoping they’d land him before Friday’s trade deadline.

So now the Yankees will move forward and either stick with their current second base situation or acquire … someone. The second base market is really thin now. Martin Prado is the best available option and it’s not clear whether he is even available. The Marlins could simply hold onto him for next year. Brandon Phillips is the other big name out there. Let’s run down the club’s second base options with Zobrist now off the board.

Option No. 1: Stick with Drew

The Yankees have given Stephen Drew plenty of leash so far this season — he picked up plate appearances 300 and 301 last night — and he’s rewarded them with a .187/.261/.377 (73 wRC+) batting line. The 13 homers and 9.0% walk rate are nice, but there is basically no level of defense or power that makes making an out more than 73% of the time is acceptable. A total of 160 hitters are qualified for the batting title right now. Drew’s on-base percentage would be the 92nd best batting average. Yeah, it’s bad.

Now, to be fair, Drew has been better of late. He’s hitting .226/.308/.478 (115 wRC+) in 131 plate appearances since the calendar flipped to June, with a lot of that built on his three two-homer games in June. They count! Drew just hasn’t done a whole lot aside from those games. The bat hasn’t really come around to the point where you’d safely expect him to put up league average numbers going forward, but Drew has never not been reliable in the field, even while making the transition over to second. He’s as sure-handed as they come, and with no second base options likely to put up big offensive numbers, going with the best defender is a viable strategy.

Option No. 2: Go with Refnsyder

For a total of four games, the Yankees gave top second base prospect Rob Refsnyder a shot at the job. He was called up earlier this month, played the last two games before the All-Star break and the first two games after the break, and went 2-for-12 (.167) with a homer. His defense at second was … passable. Rough around the edges is a good way to describe it. Refsnyder didn’t look too natural there. The routine seemed difficult.

Of course, Refsnyder’s calling card is not his defense, it’s his bat. He’s hitting .285/.378/.404 (131 wRC+) in 393 plate appearances at Triple-A this year and .292/.383/.428 (133 wRC+) in 726 plate appearances at the level dating back to last year, so Refsnyder’s put up good numbers at the highest level of the minors. There are reasons to believe he’d be an upgrade over Drew at the plate. As an added bonus, Refsnyder is right-handed and would balance out the lefty heavy bottom of the lineup. The Yankees seem hesitant to give Refsnyder an extended opportunity — that’s not too surprising, they prioritize defense and he doesn’t offer it — but could do so after the trade deadline.

Prado. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Prado. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Option No. 3: Trade for Prado

Like I said, the Marlins aren’t even committed to shopping Prado yet. Joel Sherman heard Miami will now “at least contemplate” trading Prado, which I guess is better than saying he’s off limits. He’s hitting .280/.321/.375 (92 wRC+) with 14 doubles and four homers this season, continuing a gradual decline that has seen him go from a 117 wRC+ in 2012 to 104 in 2013 to 103 in 2014 to 92 in 2015. Prado is versatile, which is nice even though we’re talking about him slotting in as the regular second baseman. Also, it’s worth noting Prado has not played second base regularly since 2010. He’s just filled in a handful of times each year. Check out our Scouting The Market post for more info on the ex-Yankee, who is also under contract next year.

Option No. 4: Trade for Phillips

At this point the rebuilding Reds would probably give Phillips away to rid themselves of the $32M they owe him through 2017. He’s hitting .273/.310/.355 (83 wRC+) so far this year, and, at age 34, his power is all but gone. His ISO has slid from .157 in 2011 to .148 in 2012 to .135 in 2013 to .103 in 2014 to .081 in 2015. That is both not a good trend and perfectly normal for a guy this age. Phillips is on the downside of his career. It’s clear as day. Peak dollars for non-peak production. But, Phillips is very available, and at this point he might be an upgrade over what the Yankees have in-house. Here’s our Scouting The Market post.

* * *

Unless a trade candidate comes out of nowhere — Dee Gordon? he just returned from his dislocated thumb — these are the four main options the Yankees have at second best now that Zobrist is off the board. I’m not sure there’s a right answer. I’m not even sure there’s much of a difference between the three when you considered expected production and acquisition costs, stuff like that. Time for a poll.

What should the Yankees do at second base?