Not on the field, mind you, where New York had the best weekend it could’ve hoped for, completing a four-game sweep of Boston to preserve the best record in the league and all but end the Red Sox’s playoff hopes by putting them 6.5 games out of the second wild card. No, the Yankees are coming apart at the seams in the trainer’s room, for the second time this season. That seemingly disastrous stretch saw 10 players go on the injured list; the Yankees now have 16 players on IL. And the only player from the opening day lineup who hasn’t gone on IL this year spent the night in the hospital. It’s not going great!
The past couple weeks had been grim, with Gary Sanchez (groin strain), Luke Voit (sports hernia; extremely gross), CC Sabathia (chronic knee pain) going on IL to join the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, and Luis Severino, who have spent most of all of the season there. But this weekend saw the injuries turned up to an almost comical degree.
On Saturday afternoon, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader, Edwin Encarnacion was plunked on the wrist by Josh Smith.
The pitch fractured Encarnacion’s wrist, and while there’s never really a good time to break your wrist, this was an especially bad one. Encarnacion had had a slow start after coming to the Yankees in a June trade, but was hitting .333 with five home runs in his last 20 games before being injured.
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Encarnacion is out indefinitely, as are the other two first basemen on the 40-man roster (Voit and Greg Bird), so the Yankees will turn to utilityman D.J. LeMahieu as their full-time first baseman—except on the days LeMahieu is filling in for the other injured infielders. Even the stuffed parrot they bought for Encarnacion due to his “walking the parrot” home run trot was sporting a cast on its wing.
In Saturday’s nightcap, centerfielder Aaron Hicks injured his right elbow making a throw from the outfield.
(Yes, that’s Bob Costas’s voice you heard in the last two clips. Michael Kay, the Yankees’ regular play-by-play guy, is still recovering from vocal cord surgery, and Costas was an emergency fill-in. Everything about this team is cursed right now.)
An MRI diagnosed Hicks as having a flexor strain, and he’ll be out indefinitely. The team was worried he had damaged ligaments and would need Tommy John surgery, so literally anything but the worst-case scenario has to be considered good news.
In Sunday night’s game, infielder Gio Urshela fouled two balls off himself in a single at-bat: the first off his right knee, and the second, two pitches later, off his left shin.
Urshela tried to stay in the game, but had to be removed a couple innings later when his legs started to stiffen up. After the game, Urshela’s legs were so swollen he had trouble getting his pants on.
In the eighth inning, infielder Gleyber Torres, the Yankees’ only opening-day starter who hadn’t missed significant time with injuries this season, didn’t come out to play second base. He was on his way to the hospital, apparently having injured himself running out a ground ball earlier in the game.
The Yankees would say only that Torres was taken for tests as a result of “a core issue.” He was discharged after midnight and will accompany the team on its road trip to Baltimore, although it’s unknown whether he’ll be able to play.
In all the Yankees have had 24 different players serve 28 stints on the injured list in 2019, and that’s before any potential trips for Urshela and Torres. 2019 is also the first year without August waiver trades, which means that if the Yankees need reinforcements, they’re limited to who they already have in their system. And they’re already relying on the first and second rounds of reinforcements: At one point in Sunday night’s 7-4 win, the Yankees rallied with consecutive hits from Cameron Maybin, Mike Ford, Kyle Higashioka, and Mike Tauchman.
This isn’t a recipe for success, though they’ve somehow been making it work so far. And though best-case scenarios see the likes of Severino, Voit, Sanchez, Sabathia, Stanton, and Dellin Betances returning before the playoffs, there’s zero chance the Yankees head into the postseason at anything resembling full-strength. That presents a perhaps unsurmountable challenge against an Astros team that (unlike the Yankees) has an ace rotation and (unlike the Yankees) got even better at the trade deadline. Sometimes—and you tend to start to realize this right around the time the second dozen players go down hurt—it’s just not your year.