(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)
With 8 days until Opening Day, the Yankees enter their final week of ST game action with a few more potential roster holes to plug than they were hoping for. It's not competition that's causing the uncertainty. The starting lineup and rotation are mostly set, as is the bench, and the bullpen is starting to take shape. A few late spring injuries have popped up and for now the Yankee training and coaching staffs are addressing them in a very slow and cautious manner. None of the injuries appear to be too serious and none involve important ligaments or joints, continuing the refreshing string of good luck that Mike E. pointed out last Thursday, but there are a few that are serious enough to possibly affect the look of the Opening Day rosters.
Brendan Ryan- Already out for most of ST, Ryan suffered what I'm calling a setback with his back last week on the day the Yankees tried to get him back into a game. An MRI revealed a pinched nerve in his upper back, and while the team has said it's unrelated to the lower back problems that were holding him out, I question that proposed lack of correlation. The real issue is that Ryan now looks more likely to miss the start of the regular season than make it. There are no plans to play him in any games this week, and right now the only scheduled recovery activity is a cortisone injection that could come this week. The Yanks are hoping that Ryan only misses a week or so once the regular season starts, but they won't know how realistic that possibility is until they see how his back responds to the shot and a week off.
Jacoby Ellsbury- The good news is that he went through a full workout yesterday morning with no problems in his calf and is scheduled to play in a MiL game tomorrow. The bad news, if you want to call it that, is that after first saying they didn't expect him to miss much time, this new plan marks at least the second time the Yanks have pushed back Ellsbury's return date since he first felt something. Obviously caution is the way to go with spring injuries to important players, but to go from Joe initially saying it wasn't a big deal and he expected Ellsbury to only miss a few days to Ellsbury returning over the weekend to Ellsbury getting pulled from morning BP to take an MRI to Ellsbury now returning this Tuesday in MiL games does make me concerned. I can't help but wonder if this plan is designed more to get Ellsbury ready for the start of the season or keep the opportunity open for a back dated DL stint.
Those are the only 2 major ones as far as the Major League roster is concerned. There are a few minor ones worth updating as well:
Jose Ramirez- Still no word on any kind of rehab time frame from his latest oblique injury, but at least now we know what role he'll be in when he does get back on a mound. In a video interview, Brian Cashman confirmed that the team will move Ramirez to the bullpen and said he could move fast when he returns. Considering his nasty fastball/slider/changeup mix, long injury history, spot on the 40-man roster, and the fact that he'll be in Triple-A, there's a very good chance we see Ramirez in the Bronx later in the year as long as he's healthy.
Scott Sizemore- He's back on the field after battling a sore quad for a week, but between the quad and the knee concerns Sizemore looks like a long shot to crack the Major League bench. He's only played in 9 games, hasn't had a chance to play too many games in succession, and he doesn't have the benefit of a 40-man roster spot. If he can stay healthy and hit well in SWB, he could get a look before his May 1st opt-out date.
Slade Heathcott/Tyler Austin- Hasn't been much on either of these 2 lately, which is good news given their recent histories. As far as I know, both are taking regular BP a the MiL complex and Austin might get into a game or 2 before the end of ST. Neither will be ready to start the season, although Austin is probably farther along at the moment. I have yet to see even an estimated time table for Heathcott's return, so expect a few more weeks of rehab/baseball activities to make sure the knee is fully healthy.
Derek Jeter- Nothing physically wrong with him after he fouled 2 balls of his left foot and ankle last week. That said, there still doesn't appear to be much pop in his bat. It would be nice to see him start hitting a little bit this week.
Francisco Cervelli- Same deal as Jeter. He took a few foul balls and got hit by a pitch all in the same game recently, but nothing bad enough to keep him out. He should be fine.