The New York Yankees have already been severely crippled by the injury bug, and opening day is still 25 days away. As the injuries continue to pile up the “Evil Empire” looks vulnerable going into the 2013 MLB season. Let’s take a look at the injuries facing the Bronx Bombers entering the 2013 season:
– Mark Teixeria, First Base – Out 8-10 weeks with a strained wrist. This is why fans do not want their players participating in the World Baseball Classic. Wrist injuries can be very tricky, as they are both tough to rehabilitate and easy to reinjure, and as a Yankee fan I hope he waits until he is 100% healed to return. Of course the Yankees will miss Tex’s bat, but nobody is discussing how much the team will miss his stellar defense.
– Curtis Granderson, Outfield – Fractured his right forearm when hit by a pitch in an early Spring Training game, out until early May.
– Alex Rodriguez, Third Base – Returning from left hip surgery. Out until the All-Star break at the earliest. May not return this season.
– Derek Jeter, Shortstop – Returning from a broken ankle suffered in the 2012 playoffs. Has not run the bases full speed yet, but is expected to be ready for opening day.
– Mariano Rivera, Closer –The greatest of All-Time is returning from a torn right ACL, expected to be ready for opening day.
– C.C. Sabathia, Starting Pitcher – The horse, the staff ace, is returning from left elbow surgery and is expected to be ready for opening day.
Things are going to be different in The Bronx at the start of the 2013 season. Over the past few years the team has lived and died by the long ball, and the team set a franchise record in 2012, hitting the most home runs in the major leagues with 245. The Yankees scored 48.4% of their runs off of home runs last season, again the most in baseball. When you look at the Yankees 2013 projected opening day roster, you do not see a lot of power:
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Yankees opening day lineup could look like this:
CF Brett Gardner
SS Derek Jeter
2B Robinson Cano
3B Kevin Youkilis (or Eduardo Nunez)
DH Travis Hafner
1B Juan Rivera (or Youkilis)
RF Ichiro Suzuki
C Francisco Cervelli
(There has also been rumored interest in both outfielder/first baseman Carlos Lee and third baseman Scott Rolen, two aging former stars who are past their prime)
Of the 245 home runs the Yankees hit last season, gone are the 24 hit by Nick Swisher (Indians) and the 21 hit by Russell Martin (Pirates), free agents they lost (more like elected not to re-sign) during the offseason. They will start the year missing Curtis Granderson (43 home runs in 2012), Mark Teixeria (24 home runs in 2012) and Alex Rodriguez (18 home runs in 2012).
Fans are in panic mode. While the Yankees longtime rivals, the Boston Red Sox, are in rebuilding mode two other divisional rivals (Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles) look loaded and poised to compete for the division title.
The Yankees will need to tread water until Tex and Granderson return, and they can do this by winning with pitching and manufacturing runs through small ball, which is something they have not needed to do for a long time. Do not give up hope Yankees fans. If this team can win some games and stay near (.500) until early-mid may, they will be okay, and they will be a fun team to watch until then. Expect Gardner and several other Yankees to be active on the base paths, expect a more aggressive team that cannot afford to sit back and wait for a home run, expect Cano to show the Yankees his worth as he attempts to secure a monster long term contract. I expect the Yankees to stay in the race with pitching and small ball until their stars return in Mid-May.