Less than one week into the season, the New York Yankees most glaring problem surfaced. The team, demolished by the disabled list last year, has already been bit by the injury bug. Backup shortstop Brendan Ryan, who was sent to the disabled list with a back issue before the season, will be joined by starting first baseman Mark Teixeira, who injured his right hamstring on Friday night.
After winning just one game in Houston against an Astros squad that is almost universally expected to be a bottom three team in baseball, the Yankees evened their season record by taking two-of-three against the Toronto Blue Jays. Kelly Johnson moved from the left side of the infield, where he was expected to be the regular third baseman, to take Teixeira’s spot at first. Yangervis Solarte took over at third, where he should stick for as long as needed. Solarte was a pleasant surprise for Yankees in spring, hitting .429 with a pair of homers to win the utility spot on the bench over Eduardo Nunez, who had started 75 games for new York last year. A former Twins prospect who was let go by the organization, Solarte has rewarded Joe Girardi’s faith in him by continuing his hot stretch from the spring. In five games played, Solarte has four doubles and a 1.232 OPS.
CC Sabathia looked better in his second start, but not great. In six innings he allowed four runs, but only 7 hits and no walks against six strikeouts. His velocity did not look any better than it did in spring or his first start. In spite of Sabathia’s struggles, the Yankees’ rotation looked outstanding as a whole the first run through. Tanaka’s splitter is as good as advertised. Pineda had a strong start with no walks. Kuroda looked healthy.
Similarly, the bullpen has looked great as well. Bullpen arms can be somewhat erratic year to year due to their limited sample of innings, which is what made Mariano Rivera such an incredible specimen. New closer David Robertson has looked excellent, with two saves so far. Robertson has, thus far, has a remarkably consistent career as well and gives his team a great advantage at the end of games. The rest of the pen has combined for a 3.18 ERA in 11 innings, and the only reliever to even allow an earned run thus far is David Phelps.
The strangest trend so far is that the Yankees have only hit a single home run, off of the bat of Brett Gardner no less. Without Alex Rodriguez the team was never going to be a top tier power threat, but a single home run in six games is a small output no matter how you slice it. For comparison, their opponents have hit eight homers. The Bronx Bombers just have not lived up to their moniker, but on the plus side have been very patient at the plate. They also currently lead the majors with eight steals, and have not been caught. Expect this style of play to continue all year.
Monday is the Yankees home opener. The Yankees were banking on a lot of oft-injured and older players to stay healthy. Some injuries are to be expected, which will be troublesome as the infield in particular lacks much depth. However, if the pitching continues to hold up, the team should be able to stay over .500 and hang in the wild card race. The offense is going to be middling if Teixeira is out for long, or if he does not regain his form when he returns. Catcher Austin Romine was recalled from AAA to take Teixeira’s place on the roster. Joe Girardi should be prepared for a lot of lineup juggling.
Commentary by Brian Moore