The Yankee outfield to start the 2013 is going to look a lot different from the one we've been used to seeing. Their center fielder is on the shelf for at least the first month of the regular season, their left fielder is making a return to everyday duty after playing in just 16 games last season, and their new starting right fielder is a far cry from the type of productive two-way player their old one was, whether people want to admit it or not. There's definitely speed here, and there are definitely the tools to be part of a productive offense, but the degree to which each player will be able to utilize those tools to be productive remains a mystery and all of them come with their own areas of concern. Looking past the early-season replacement for Curtis, let's take a look at what we know and don't know about the 2013 Yankee outfield.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and nowhere has that been more true than with the Yankees' injury situations this spring. Every time something good happens for a player, there seems to be something bad happening to another one to balance things out. Derek Jeter gets back on the field at shortstop, Mark Teixeira's injury gets a more serious diagnosis. Phil Hughes throws a sim game yesterday and comes away with no back problems, Clay Rapada remains on the sidelines with bursitis in his pitching shoulder. Boone Logan throws a bullpen session without pain in his left elbow, but still acknowledges that there's "something" going on there.
The Jeter and Teix situations are pretty set right now, but both Rapada and Logan remain up in the air as it relates to their availability and readiness for Opening Day. Logan is scheduled to pitch in his first spring game sometime this week while there is no timetable set for Rapada's return, and there could eventually be at least one spot open in the bullpen come April 1st. As I mentioned yesterday, Cody Eppley isn't lighting the world on fire right now and with the way a few other guys are pitching in camp he's far from a sure thing to get Logan or Rapada's spot if they become available. Who else could sneak in and steal a spot on the Opening Day roster? Glad you asked.
(Cultivating that much mass will put stress on anybody's back)
While the latest on Mark Teixeira's injury wasn't good, Phil Hughes took a step forward towards his comeback from a bulging disk yesterday by throwing a 2-inning simulated game at the team's MiL complex. Hughes threw roughly 40 pitches and came away from the session saying both his back and his arm felt good. The next step is an actual game appearance, which could come in a MiL game on Saturday.
The Yankees will need a fifth starter on April 7th, so that's obviously what Hughes and Larry Rothschild are working towards right now. If he can get a couple of games under his belt and not have any more problems with the back he should be in line to make that start on April 7th, albeit with what will certainly be a strict pitch count. If it's determined he isn't ready, the Yankees already have a backup plan available in David Phelps and both Rothschild and Joe have said they aren't interested in sending Hughes out there if he's not 100%. Better to sacrifice one start if it gives him a better chance of making 30.