Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oh Hey, Travis Hafner! Didn't See You Over There. What's Going On, Buddy?

(Courtesy of Reuters)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

When two of the defining storylines of your team's Spring Training are "lack of power" and "injuries" and Travis Hafner is on your team, it's more than reasonable to expect that he's going to factor heavily into those stories.  After all, his calling card at the plate is power and you can pretty much set your watch to him pulling, tearing, or spraining something.  That hasn't really been the case for the Yankees so far this month, as Hafner hasn't been a presence in the lineup so much as a name on the lineup card.  To be honest, I kind of forgot he was even in camp with the team, what with the lack of power and the fact that he's still walking around without limping.

Believe it or not, Hafner is in camp and has actually been playing in games.  He just hasn't done much in those games.  Hafner is just 4-29 this spring, with a single solitary home run and an even dozen strikeouts.  He's still somewhat of a presence in the lineup with four walks, but after Teix and C-Grand went down he became a much more critical part of that lineup.  As of this morning he hasn't given much of an indication that he's ready to be that critical part of the lineup and that's a tad unsettling.

2013 Season Preview: What We Know & What We Don't Know (The Rotation)

(One of these guys is not a starter.  Guess which one.  Courtesy of the AP)

For the first time in years, the Yankees won't enter the season with a bunch of questions to answer about their rotation.  They know who their starters are going to be and they've got a pretty good idea about what they can expect from those starters.  The big questions this year are whether or not the back end of the rotation can take a step up in performance and whether or not the top of the rotation is primed to regress.  Regardless of the answers to those questions, the rotation should be the greatest strength of this year's team and will be looked to to help keep the team competitive while they struggle to put their lineup back together.

Jeter's Ankle Acting Up Already

The good news is that the X-rays came back negative and the MRI showed only mild inflammation, so there's nothing structurally wrong with Derek Jeter's surgically-repaired ankle.  The bad news is that it didn't take long at all for the ankle to start bothering him once he returned to game action.  After just five games, only a couple of them at shortstop, Jeter felt stiffness in the ankle during BP yesterday and was scratched from the lineup.  Joe initially described the ankle as "cranky," but there was enough concern for the Yankees to send Jeter to the doctor to have the ankle evaluated and based on that evaluation they are officially calling him day-to-day.

With over a week before the start of the regular season, the most important thing right now is making sure Jeter is alright and the priority should be giving him the time he needs to relieve the inflammation.  Looking big picture, though, this could set a tough precedent for how Jeter has to be handled this season and how Joe will have to juggle the lineup to ensure he gives Jeter enough time to rest.  Five games with a day of rest in between each wasn't enough to keep the ankle from acting up and there aren't any regular season stretches with that much rest time built in.

The more Jeter has to be held out of the lineup to rest the ankle, the more Eduardo Nunez has to play shortstop and that's just not a good thing.  The Yanks are also light on right-handed DH options right now and I'm sure Joe was planning to use that spot as a way to get Jeter some quasi-off days.  Having to be held out because of ankle issues this early in the year not only brings Jeter's already uncertain production capability into further question, it also raises greater concerns about his ability to even stay on the field once the regular season starts.

** UPDATE 12:06 PM- Cash confirmed earlier that Jeter received a cortisone shot in the ankle today and said it's possible Jeter could start the season on the DL.  Not surprising, but definitely disappointing.  Let Nunez Watch 2013 begin. **