On Early Rehab Returns

Michael Pineda has officially ended his rehab, but only technically. The starting pitcher will make his next start tomorrow night in Scranton, and I’m sure plenty of fans are disappointed about that. The stats look fine, Pineda was solid across his minor league rehab appearances, but the word around twitter and the media is that he could use some more work with his fastball control.

Realistically, Pineda never had a shot of returning to the major leagues after his rehab assignment. The right-handed pitcher has fallen victim to some fine print in the CBA, where the Yankees can option the starter to the minor leagues for a few weeks and regain a whole year of team control. As it stands, the team is not in any dire need of a starter, and calling him up to the big leagues is far from a need anyway.

But when it comes to position players, the Yankees need as much help as they can get. Eduardo Nunez, who missed two months with an oblique injury was rushed back to the major leagues after just 6 rehab games. The Yankees, who are typically very cautious with rehab assignments, no longer have the option to slowly acclimate their major league starters back into the Bronx. Not only is the season winding on with a lineup filled with backups, but the ability to trade for necessary pieces will be extremely limited in just three weeks.

Unfortunately, the organization has no idea what they’re missing. With Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira on the disabled list, there are a number of positions the team should aim to bolster. But with Jeter and Rodriguez performing their own rehab assignments, the Yankees could be just weeks away from acquiring more than capable starters. The questions remain, how will they perform offensively? Will their bodies hold up? Will they be able to continue to play their demanding positions?

The Yankees have to hope that they’ll find out soon enough, since the trade deadline is only three weeks away. The organization has a tough decision to make in this circumstance. Jeter has already been quoted as saying he’s ready to play in the majors, and if someone asked Rodriguez the same question, I doubt he’d answer any differently. The organization is holding back the players that they so desperately need. And sure, there’s plenty of logical reasoning for waiting out the assignments, there’s risk involved with bringing players back too early, but at what point do other risks outweigh early return risks?

Outside of fielding an inferior team, waiting too long for Jeter and Rodriguez to return will leave them very little time to see what each player can do in the majors. There could be a very real circumstance where either player can’t field their position regularly, or one might injure themselves soon enough. If the team waits the full 20-day rehab assignments, there will barely be any time to identify and address weaknesses at third base or short stop.

It’s a problem where there is no clear solution, and I can’t speak for the proper way to handle it. We’ve already seen manager Joe Girardi flip-flop on an early return for Jeter, so I doubt the organization has a concrete plan either. It’s an issue that makes me wonder if we’ll one day be surprised with a lineup sporting Jeter or Rodriguez.

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.