A weekend series postponed due to the coronavirus and three more guys on the injured list. Nice job perfectly capturing both 2020 and the Yankees, Friday.
Yes, hours after Major League Baseball announced the sidelining of the scheduled Subway Series at Citi Field thanks to a pair of positive COVID tests for the Mets, the Yankees placed key pieces James Paxton (left forearm flexor strain) and Gleyber Torres (strained left quad and left hamstring) as well as reliever Luis Avilan (left shoulder inflammation) on the injured list.
Good grief. If Eric Cressey’s first season as strength/conditioning guru was going any worse, the celebrity trainer would be Marty Miller (Google him if you don’t remember).
The best news for the Yankees is that the Rays, who worked circles around them this past week at Yankee Stadium, appear only three more times on their schedule, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2. The next-best news? The next time they play, be it Monday (in a possible makeup or two against the Mets) or Tuesday (at the Braves), they hope to have Aaron Judge, no small addition, off the injured list.
The bronze medal for positive pinstriped spin on this dour day arrives in the form of roster depth: The Yankees aren’t quite tapped out yet. They possess intriguing internal options to fill these latest voids.
Whether anyone from the ranks of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, Jonathan Loaisiga or Clarke Schmidt convert that intrigue into usefulness will help determine the success of this ambitious group amidst this atypical campaign and direct whether the Yankees must go outside the organization, with the Aug. 31 trade deadline looming, for help.
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Let’s start with Schmidt, since he’s the guy of whom we’ve seen the least, as in never in the big leagues. The Yankees’ first-round pick of the 2017 amateur draft has surged since showing up at spring training 1.0, elevating his stock considerably, and it wouldn’t surprise to see him take Paxton’s spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation. The right-hander has been working at the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton.
After all, beyond trying to defend their AL East crown and grab the No. 1 postseason seed, the Yankees want to put together as formidable a playoff rotation as possible. If Paxton can’t make it back in time, with barely five weeks left in the regular season, then the Yankees would have Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka and more question marks than an episode of the old “Batman” TV show featuring The Riddler. Maybe Jordan Montgomery can continue to work his way back from 2018 Tommy John surgery, or perhaps even J.A. Happ can rediscover sufficient magic. Definitely, Schmidt possesses the upside to start and win in October.
The third-year veteran Loaisiga, meanwhile, has started two games this season — he served as sort of an opener-plus, totaling 5 ¹/₃ innings — and tallied a 2.77 ERA. He remains a guy whose swing-and-miss stuff excites people despite mixed results and a lengthy injury history. You might recall that in his big-league debut two years ago, Rays manager Kevin Cash, who caught briefly for the Yankees, said Loaisiga looked like “a young Mariano Rivera.”
Shifting to the infield, the hope is that Torres — who had been registering a rather miserable 2020 season — can return after the minimum 10 days, which would bring him back before his double-play partner DJ LeMahieu (sprained left thumb). For now, the Yankees will likely turn to Wade (who slid from second to shortstop upon Torres’ misfortune) and Estrada, both of whom inspired hope as minor leaguers that they could contribute at this level.
The 25-year-old Wade (.274/.351/.370 in the minors), up and down since Joe Girardi’s final year in 2017, will have the chance he has long wanted to earn his bona fides; if he delivers at shortstop, he can pivot to second if Torres returns quickly. We know he can run; everything else is to be determined.
Or, if Wade falters, the Yankees can stick with the 24-year-old Estrada (.280.337/.389 in the minors) upon Torres’ activation. Veteran Jordy Mercer, meanwhile, stands by as a replacement-level option if the kids can’t come through.
These are (sorry) your next men up, and they could be worse. The Yankees sure hope they make things better.