So Luke Voit enters stage right while Gio Urshela exits stage left. It is the two-step for which the Yankees have become famous through this season in which a cast of thousands has bludgeoned its way to the best record in baseball.
But barring September calamity, in just over a month Aaron Boone and the front office deciders will be confronted with choosing a roster for the postseason that could be dramatically different from the myriad mixes the Yankees have trotted out for a majority of the summer.
In fact, that roster could include three pitchers in Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and Jordan Montgomery who have yet to throw from a major league mound all season plus three position players in Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Edwin Encarnacion who have been down for considerable stretches.
If these players regain their health, and all seem to be on the right track, then up to a half-dozen of the guys who have picked up the baton and are poised to carry it to the finish line will be watching the best-of-five Division Series in civilian attire just like you.
Teams that are 41 games over .500 at this late date, as the 88-47 Yankees were entering Friday night’s game at the Stadium against the A’s, don’t generally have as many moving parts. But that will be as important a narrative over the season’s final month of the season as it has been through the first five.
“If you start to figure out what you think about the idea of having 25 to 30 healthy players and what factors go into chopping that down to a postseason roster, no, I haven’t [done that],” Boone said. “I mean, hopefully, that will declare itself as the final month unfolds.
“And then, inevitably, there will be a couple of hard decisions to make. But I do hope we’re in that position because we’re getting our guys back, and we know what they’re capable of when they’re healthy and strong. But that’s still a ways off, too. The next  games we have left will go a long way to determining that.”
The Yankees haven’t simply suffered an inordinate amount of injuries, it’s been almost the norm for players coming off the IL to make a return visit. Or to aggravate injuries while rehabbing. Or for management to downplay or misgauge the severity of various maladies. Severino and Betances both suffered strained lats while working to return from shoulder injuries. Voit was on the IL with a core injury in early July, missed eight games, played 16 and returned to the IL with a sports hernia before coming back Friday.
Hicks started the season on the IL with back problems, played 59 games after being activated on May 15, and went down again on Aug. 3 with a right flexor injury. And Stanton has played in a sum of nine games this season, the first three of the year before going on IL on April 1, and then six before injuring his right knee on June 25.
If Stanton is in for the ALDS, then what about Mike Tauchman? If Stanton and Encarnacion and Hicks and Voit and Urshela are in, then where is there room for Cameron Maybin, let alone Mike Ford? These are all “if’s” but the greatest unknown is Stanton, who may be ready to face live pitching over the next week. The 29-year-old, who worked on the field before the game Friday, has had 38 plate appearances and 31 at-bats for the year.
The question, which is not aside from roster considerations even though the man’s stature (and contract) uniquely elevates him, is whether it is realistic to believe that Stanton can be productive upon his return and while facing higher quality pitching in the playoffs. Boone did not flinch in responding in the affirmative to the query, though he added a qualifier.
“Yeah, I think it is realistic,” the manager said. “Again, though, we’ll just see. I don’t want to put any expectation on it at this point. The bottom line is he’s dealt with a couple of significant injuries that have obviously interrupted his season, and when he came back he was in a really good place to impact us.
“So I think there is reason to believe he could get back to that point. But let’s allow him to heal, get better and see where he’s at in the coming weeks before making those evaluations.”
Stanton has some time. So do Voit, Encarnacion, Hicks, Urshela, Severino, Betances and Montgomery. And Boone, too. But not forever.
Credit: Source link