Friday was again not a good day for the Yankees, as the team found out the problem that’s been bugging their face of the franchise. It was revealed that Aaron Judge’s injury is a stress fracture in his rib that he suffered back in September at Yankee Stadium on a diving play in the outfield against the Los Angeles Angels. Manager Aaron Boone said they will shut down Judge for two weeks, and then reevaluate him. While the Yankees will certainly hope for the best, Boone did not rule out Judge getting surgery.
Judge’s rib injury is the latest in a slew of injuries over the course of Spring Training for New York with little over two weeks to go until the start of the regular season. Along with Judge, the Yankees will not have Giancarlo Stanton for opening day and maybe a bit longer with a grade 1 calf strain, Aaron Hicks won’t be back until August off of Tommy John surgery, Luis Severino will miss the whole year due to Tommy John, and James Paxton will be out the first few months of the season after getting back surgery. All these injuries are reminding the Yankees faithful of the 2019 campaign.
Last year, the Yankees lost Judge and Luke Voit for a few months, Stanton, Hicks, and Severino for most of the season, Miguel Andujar missed the rest of the year after undergoing shoulder surgery, Dellin Betances pitched one game in September coming off a bone spur but tore his Achilles during that outing, Didi Gregorius was out until June after he had to get Tommy John surgery in the offseason, and New York signed Troy Tulowitzki to a one-year deal but he only played five games before suffering a calf strain and subsequently retiring after being placed on the 60-day injured list. Through it all, the Yankees persevered and still won 103 games in 2019 and winning the AL East by seven games over the Tampa Bay Rays, thanks in part to guys such as Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, and Gio Urshela stepping up.
A lot of questions were asked about Boone as a manager when New York first hired him, but he answered those questions after doing a fantastic job in 2019 by leading the Yankees to the American League Championship series, and you could certainly make the case he should’ve won AL Manager of the Year. Now, Boone and the Yankees will have to do a repeat of that performance from a year ago.
With the talent and depth the Yankees have on the roster, they have the capability to overcome these injuries again. On offense, the team still has Gary Sanchez, a returning Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela and Voit to be big contributors with the absence of Stanton, Judge, and Hicks. Torres continued to develop into a real good player in 2019, LeMahieu had an MVP caliber season, and Urshela stepped up big in the absence of Andujar. New York will also have to count on Tauchman and Ford again. The biggest factor in all of this might fall on the starting pitching staff.
The Yankees starting pitching in 2020 was expected to be one of the best in baseball and it looked to be the kind of rotation Brian Cashman had been looking for to win another World Series, especially with the prized signing of Gerrit Cole. With Severino out for the year, and Paxton out for the first part of the season, there are two spots open in the rotation for guys like Jordan Montgomery and Jonathan Losiaga to step up. For Cole, the onus now falls even more on him to live up to his massive contract the Yankees gave him. The pressure is really on J.A. Happ now to have a bounce back season. The Yankees can always at least count on Masahiro Tanaka to give solid outings when he takes the mound. The Yankees have shown they are in the market for help in the rotation by calling the New York Mets about Steven Matz, but the Mets asked for Andujar in return to which the Yankees declined.
In the AL East, the Rays look to be the only threat to the Yankees with the Boston Red Sox in transition, the Toronto Blue Jays still being young and developing, and the Baltimore Orioles in the midst of a big rebuild and being one of the worst teams in baseball. The Rays won 96 games last year and had a golden opportunity to take advantage of the Yankees injury woes and win the division, but the New York kept persevering and ended up going 12-7 against Tampa Bay in 2019. With the injuries hurting the Yankees again, the Rays have another chance to gain an early lead in the division.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility the Yankees overcome these injuries again and continue to win because of the roster they’ve built. It is, however, extremely hard to repeat that performance and count on guys like Tauchman to contribute in a big way again. Just like last year, Boone has his work cut out for him, and he’s going to have to work his same magic again.