Wednesday, March 13, 2013

2013 Storylines: The Walking Wounded

(Ouch, bro.  Courtesy of the AP)

A byproduct of being an old team is the higher tendency for players to get injured.  The Yankees have walked a fine line in that department in the last two seasons as they've aged, and their ability to adapt and overcome those injuries has been what's kept them at the top of the AL East while they've battled Father Time.  This season, that battle is going to rage on like it never has before.  The Yankees would be wise to load up on the Raid, Icy Hot, and batteries for the MRI machine (they run on batteries, right?), because the injury bug is going to be a fixture in the clubhouse in 2013.

The Yanks finished 2012 really banged up, and they'll carry a lot of those injuries over to the start of the 2013 season.  Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera had season-ending injuries that they're still working their way back from.  Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia had injuries that had yet to be diagnosed that surely impacted their playoff performances, and like Jeter and Mo they will both have the start of their 2013 seasons affected as a result.  CC is looking at a scaled back start to his regular season and A-Rod is already going to miss at least half of the regular season.  Joba and David Aardsma, the two relievers tasked with replacing Sour Puss, will be preparing to pitch their first full seasons since 2010.

Adding to those problems are the injuries that befell other key returning members of the roster in the last few weeks: C-Grand's forearm, Teix's wrist, Hughes' back.  Two of those guys are out for at least the first month of the season and Hughes' readiness for his first start is still yet to be determined.  Add to THAT the issues with Boone Logan's left elbow, Clay Rapada's left shoulder, and the workload concerns for older starters like Hiroki and Andy and there's a plethora of health-related concerns tied to the core of the team.

This makes a compelling case for the "let the kids play" argument that's gaining steam this year, and normally that would be an optimal solution, but the younger Yankees aren't in much better shape than their older counterparts.  Michael Pineda and Cesar Cabral are still coming back from serious 2012 arm injuries, Manny Banuelos is out for the season recovering from TJS, and Austin Romine's back is a concern.  The big talent gap that exists between the upper and lower levels of the MiL system gets even wider when the best upper level guys are dinged up.

Even the few external free agents that the Yankees did open up their wallet to sign this offseason aren't pillars of health.  Kevin Youkilis has been banged up for the last couple years, and his health problems can be looked at as the catalyst for his decline in production.  Juan Rivera has spent time on the DL, Matt Diaz's thumb issues were basically the end of him as a productive everyday player, and Travis Hafner is such a walking DL stint waiting to happen that he hasn't played the field in years.  The Yankees' main backup options for their injured regulars are injury risks in their own right.  That's a pretty slippery slope to be on when you're trying to stay in contention in the best division in baseball.

This is not meant to be a "the sky is falling" type of post.  I'm certainly not trying to imply that the Yankees are dead in the water before the season even starts.  But the growing number of injury-related issues with this team is a huge concern and one that's going to be omnipresent from today to whenever the season ends.  It's not like the Yankee brass and coaching staff isn't aware of the situation, and it's not like they aren't making efforts to help the situation, but this year's team is much more poorly equipped to handle situations like these than last year's edition.  If the Yankees are going to be a player in the postseason race in 2013, they're going to have to find a way to overcome these injury hurdles.

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