Thursday, April 23, 2015

What happens when injured Yankees return?

As the New York Yankees raised themselves over the .500 mark with Wednesday’s 13-4 drubbing of the Detroit Tigers, we received some injury updates which could soon impact the current roster. How will these returning players change the landscape of the Yankees?

For the sake of this thought process, let’s assume that the Yankees remain otherwise healthy once the players return. Sure, there is a chance that someone will go down, thus making room for an injured player to return without a big change in the roster, but it’s entirely too difficult to try and factor that in for this exercise.

Jose Pirela is finally getting into game action after sustaining a concussion a few weeks ago during a Spring Training game. He went one-for-three in an extended Spring Training game Monday in which he played third base. He played second base Wednesday. Pirela would be the fans choice to immediately be called back to the Bronx. But where would he play?

There is no starting position for him. He would be a bench player at this point. The Yankees are sticking with Stephen Drew at second base and Didi Gregorius at shortstop for the time being despite the immense struggles of the latter. Yes, Pirela could play the role that Gregorio Petit is doing right now, occasionally spell Drew or Gregorius, but I believe the Yankees would prefer to have Pirela starting on a daily basis at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Part of the reason that is the case is because another injured player, Brendan Ryan, is also on the mend. Once he is ready to be activated, the Yankees will likely designate Petit for assignment and the backup infield role will be Ryan’s. He can play third, short and second and the Yankees would prefer to have his glove (regardless of the weak bat) for random fill-in days.

On the mound, Chris Capuano will throw two innings in an extended spring game today. He is expected back in mid-May. It’s hard to suggest that Adam Warren has done enough to eliminate the chance that he will be replaced by Capuano when the veteran returns.

In 15 innings, spanning three starts, Warren is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. He has two more walks than strikeouts (eight and six respectively) and has allowed 16 hits, including two home runs. He’ll get at least a few more starts to change manager Joe Girardi’s mind, but it looks like Warren would at least be pushed back to the bullpen as the long man.

It would seem that leaves lefty Chasen Shreve or righty Esmil Rogers as the odd men. Shreve could be optioned back to Triple-A, but Rogers would need to be designated for assignment. If for some reason Warren sticks in the rotation, Shreve would certainly be sent down as the Yankees would not want four lefties in the bullpen.

Finally, Ivan Nova, who is recuperating from Tommy John surgery, threw 35 pitches in live batting practice Tuesday. He will pitch in a simulated game Friday. He remains on track for a return in June.

Nova would surely be placed into the rotation upon his return which would have a further ripple effect if Capuano is also back in the mix as planned, and there are no other injuries. Stay tuned as that type of scenario would lead to some interesting roster decisions.

The Yankees have remained relatively healthy, but there are plenty of concerns with guys like Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia so having the bulge of starter options is a good problem for the club to have.

For now, the Yankees will hope to stay off the disabled list, and let the decisions to be made when players return, be about performance. In the end, the club wants the best players on the field.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.