After a four game losing streak, the Yankees took their last two games from the Mets at Citi Field. This little winning streak helps weaken the pessimism that usually follows such a poor performance and rash of injuries. With Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia, and Shawn Kelley now headed to the disabled list with Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and Francisco Cervelli, the Yankees’ depth is starting show major signs of weakness. But as I mentioned on Wednesday, we’re still in the early months of the season when panic moves are not necessary. I don’t expect any major trades or free agent signings, as the Yankees can survive playing mediocre baseball for a couple of weeks.
Back in 2011, when Derek Jeter suffered a calf strain in June, many thought his career as an effective hitter could be over. In 2010, Jeter OPS’d just .710, and to that point in 2011, Jeter had just a .649 OPS in 293 plate appearances. The month on the disabled list gave Jeter time to rest and rehab in Tampa, where he worked with coach Gary Denbo on his swing. The shortstop came back and OPS’d .831 to finish out 2011, and in 2012 he OPS’d .791. This disabled list stint came at the perfect time for Jeter and might have extended his career as a starting shortstop.
We ran into a similar situation at the beginning of April of this season. Mark Teixeira, recovering from his wrist surgery, made it barely four games before suffering his next trip to the disabled list. Fans thought that the first baseman’s career was in jeopardy, that even if his nagging legs recovered, his swing just didn’t look the same as pre-surgery. Teixeira spent the next week resting his legs and not swinging a bat, which forced him to also rest his wrist. Since returning, Teixeira has eight home runs, and a slash line of .275/.389/.600 in 95 plate appearances. The results come in a small sample size of one month, but Teixeira has been the Yankees’ second hottest hitter to Yangervis Solarte. In a recent article by Joel Sherman, he pointed out the importance of the time off.
“One hundred percent, the best thing that happened to me was going on the DL. My wrist was tired and sore, and I didn’t swing the bat for a week.”
After some of the injuries last season, it’s easy to grow pessimistic following surgery or extended time on the disabled list. There’s at least some silver lining to the new group of injured players. CC Sabathia and Carlos Beltran now have time to rest and possibly work on some adjustments after early-season struggles. Sabathia has found success striking out batters, limiting walks, and earning ground balls, but his high home run rate needs to be corrected as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Carlos Beltran’s elbow will force him to take some time off from swinging a bat, and we can only hope that this break helps him return with a fresh swing.
You never want to see players hit the disabled list, but when they’re struggling like some of the Yankees’ veterans have, the disabled list is sometimes a positive. As we wait for Sabathia and Pineda to return from the rotation, for Kelley to return to the bullpen, Cervelli to the roster, and Beltran to the outfield, the Yankees have also gotten a glimpse at some younger players. David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Chase Whitley have now demonstrated what they’re capable of at the major league level, Dellin Betances has earned some high leverage situations, John Ryan Murphy has really impressed with his bat, and even Zoilo Almonte looks like he’ll have a few chances to show off his bat.
You obviously don’t want to see this string of injuries in September or October, but in May, the Yankees can survive and perhaps gain something positive out of their unfortunate circumstances.