The Yankees have gotten back Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos, Francisco Cervelli, CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, Vidal Nuno, and a handful of minor league players back from injuries after a devastating 2013 season. Last Spring Training was a disaster, where Jeter, Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson each suffered significant injury issues. This March has been much different thus far, and after a year of setbacks and awaiting disappointment, the Yankees have remained incredibly healthy.
While we’ve seen a number of pitchers on other teams head to the DL needing Tommy John surgery, and even third baseman Miguel Sano needing the same surgery, the Yankees haven’t had such bad luck this year. The most significant injuries have happened to utility man Brendan Ryan and outfield prospect Tyler Austin, who have each made progress to return to their respective roles. Scott Sizemore is now dealing with a sore quad after suffering his second ACL injury last season, but even he could be back to full practice as soon as today. Jacoby Ellsbury, who broke his foot at the end of the 2013 season, has dealt with his own minor leg problems, but he’s again running and doing full practices.
Relative to the broken bones, the tendon problems, the ligament and labrum aggravation we’ve grown accustomed to, this year’s set of minor soreness is a bizarre new world for Yankee fans that have been conditioned to expect the next major season-ending injury. Whether it’s the product of a new conditioning coach, advanced data pointing to healthier players to acquire, or just regression from the overwhelming injury bug last season, this Yankee team is proving that they’re healthy despite age.
And this health has helped them tremendously thus far. The team has shown that the depth that they’ve piled up to prepare for questionable players like Jeter, Brian Roberts, and the entire pitching staff can be used for more than just a backup plan. The Yankees’ rotation has remained remarkably healthy, making David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno the 6th, 7th, and 8th starters in the rotation. The Yankees will probably figure out a way to keep 2 of them in the bullpen, and one in Triple-A, but they can also be used as trade chips. A similar dilemma occurs for the position players, where Ichiro Suzuki is now the 5th outfielder while being outplayed by Zoilo Almonte. In the infield, not only have Kelly Johnson, Jeter, and Roberts remained healthy and adequate at their positions, but Sizemore, Yangervis Solarte, and Zelous Wheeler have each played well enough to earn a spot on the roster that’s limited to just 1 of these players. And of course there’s Francisco Cervelli, who’s playing like Miguel Cabrera despite a minimal role behind Brian McCann as the backup catcher.
Unlike last year, the Yankees’ Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have a new problem of picking between which players to keep on their roster. In 2013, the Yankees fought to find even major league caliber talent for the 25-man roster, but in 2014, the Yankees have so many players that the biggest problem is to find playing time. With the excess of players in the last week and a half of Spring Training, I fully expect a trade or two to close up some of the depth in the infield and bullpen for both 2014 and forward. It’s not that the Yankees lack someone to fit in as a backup plan, but the quality of the backup can at least be upgraded in name. There are just too many players on this team to keep around, and the Yankees will figure out a way to maximize this opportunity.
After a year of anticipating the next injury and wondering who will play where, what a weird feeling it is to have so many options this year.