3:26PM: LeMahieu discussed his toe injury with Rivera and other reporters, saying that he had yet to begin any baseball activities since he isn’t able to rotate his right foot. LeMahieu is hopeful he might be able to return when the Yankees begin a homestand on September 20, though Boone wasn’t quite as optimistic about that potential return date.
9:25AM: The Yankees were largely able to avoid the injury bug in the early part of the year but it’s caught up with them here in the latter part of the schedule. The club currently has 15 players on the IL, which includes five position players and 10 pitchers. Marly Rivera did a thorough roundup at ESPN, including comments from manager Aaron Boone.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo has been out of action for over a week now but seems to be trending towards a return to baseball activities. A lingering back issue led to him getting an epidural as treatment, but that had the unfortunate side effect of giving Rizzo migraines. Rivera reports that Rizzo received a blood patch to try to alleviate the migraines, which Boone characterized as a success. “Immediately, they had him moving around and walking,” Boone said. “And I think it freed him up right away. Headaches are gone so far.”
Boone then added that if Rizzo feels good today, they will start ramping up baseball activities. While that sounds like good news, the next steps are still a bit murky. Though Boone is hoping for Rizzo to be back in the lineup within a week, it will depend on how things progress. “It’ll kind of depend on how the ramp-up goes. Hopefully, we’ve gotten through what we need to, and now we can start building that process. We’ll just pay attention to how he’s doing and how long it takes him to get rolling.”
With Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu out of action, the Yanks took a shot on Ronald Guzmán, though he was designated for assignment after just a few days. Marwin Gonzalez is holding down the position for now, with Rivera reporting that rookie Oswaldo Cabrera currently penciled in as the backup. Cabrera definitely has versatility, having played a lot of second base, third base and shortstop in his career, as well as some outfield work. He’s never played first base, however, though that doesn’t seem too concerning to the Yanks. Rivera reports that Cabrera has been practicing his work at first, getting a nod of approval from infield coach Travis Chapman.
There could be reinforcements coming for the outfield as well, with Harrison Bader inching closer to his Yankee debut. Acquired from the Cardinals on deadline day, Bader was on the IL at the time with plantar fasciitis and hasn’t been able to officially don the pinstripes just yet. He is going to start a rehab assignment today, though only serving as designated hitter initially. “It’s really just a matter of getting on a baseball field, checking off boxes in terms of feeling comfortable physically at game speed, and once those are checked, I’m going to go and be a winning player for this team,” Bader said.
Giving more details about the rehab, Boone said that Bader will DH today for the Double-A Somerset Patriots, who then have an off-day on Monday, with Bader building up after that. “It’ll probably be at least a week,” Boone said. “If we get through that week, and the buildup is going fine, he could be in play then when we start the homestand.” The homestand Boone referred to begins on September 20, which would give Bader a chance to contribute over the final two weeks of the regular schedule.
As for the pitching staff, the Yanks could have many options over the horizon, as a whole fleet of arms are rehabbing and nearing a return. Aroldis Chapman, Miguel Castro and Zack Britton are all scheduled to pitch for the Patriots today, with Chapman and Castro potentially returning for the same homestand as Bader. Scott Effross isn’t quite at the rehab stage but is gearing up to it. Additionally, Luis Severino is ready for launch but will make one more rehab start since the big league club has a couple of off-days that negate the need for his services in the short term.
The health of all these players, and the roster in general, will be hugely important for the Yankees in the final few weeks of the season. Not so long ago, it seemed that they were in cruise control, leading the AL East by as much as 15 1/2 games in July. This pile of injuries has helped slow the team down and whittle their lead over the Rays to just 4 1/2 games as of today, with the Jays just half a game behind Tampa. With just over three weeks left in the regular season, the Yanks will be hoping to fend off their competitors and keep the division title, which would be hugely important for their postseason chances. Whoever wins the East will almost certainly get a bye through the first round, whereas those who settle for a Wild Card slot will have to survive a best-of-three series to stay alive.