Michael Pineda before he’d thrown a single meaningful pitch. Joba Chamberlain on a trampoline. Brett Gardner on a seemingly innocent diving catch. Mariano Rivera shagging fly balls during batting practice. Andy Pettitte on a comebacker. Now Alex Rodriguez on a changeup high and tight.
“This is, man, everybody talks about other injuries, but we’ve had our share of injuries,” Eric Chavez said. “Al is so important to our team. This is definitely going to hurt.”
Rodriguez is tentatively expected to miss roughly six weeks, but that’s little more than an educated guess before he’s seen Dr. Christopher Ahmad. All we know for certain is that he’s heading to the disabled list, and the Yankees have to fill the spot. So now what?
Filling Rodriguez’s spot in the field
For today, this one’s easy. Chavez is having a good year, and he’s a natural fit against right-handed pitching. Joe Girardi has already said Chavez will be at third base for this afternoon’s series finale.
But Chavez is perhaps the greatest injury risk on a roster already full of injuries. Jayson Nix is already available to serve as a right-handed platoon partner, but the Yankees also want him to backup at shortstop and second base. The minor league system offers Corban Joseph, Brandon Laird, Kevin Russo and Ramiro Pena, but the most obvious internal fit might be Eduardo Nunez who’s just now coming back from a thumb injury that sidelined him for two months.
Strictly a guess, but it does not seem out of the realm of possibility that we’ll see a Chavez/Nunez platoon at some point.
Twenty-four hours ago it would have been absurd, but without Rodriguez, it might make sense to build a top of the order that looks something like this: 1. Ichiro, 2. Jeter, 3. Cano, 4. Teixeira, 5. Granderson.
Once Nick Swisher is healthy, would it make more sense to have him batting second behind Jeter?
Is it better to keep the lineup as similar as possible, batting Granderson, Teixeira and Cano in the two, three and four spots?
There are options, and I’m not sure there’s a clear-cut, obvious way to go. I’m sure there will be many preferences, but the only one that matters is Girardi’s.
Filling Rodriguez’s spot on the roster
Assuming they can get a player to the West Coast in time, the Yankees will almost certainly have someone here this afternoon. But that player won’t necessarily be a long-term replacement. The Yankees could simply fill the hole for a game, then use this afternoon and tomorrow’s off day to make a more permanent decision.
If Ronnier Mustelier were healthy, this might be a chance to see what he can do. As it is, the top big-league-ready infielder in the system is Nunez. He’s the guy who spent last season on the big league roster and has proven he can hit big league pitching. In theory, he should be a good defensive player — good range, strong arm — but he’s been unthinkably erratic, so the Yankees sent him back to the minors in May. Does the Rodriguez injury open the door for him to return?
Outside of the organization, Hanley Ramirez was traded last night, and MLB Trade Rumors’ list of potentially available third basemen begins with Chase Headley — who won’t come cheap — and quickly falls off to guys like Chone Figgins and Cody Ransom. The Yankees internal options might be preferable to much of what’s available on the open market, and it’s unclear whether the Yankees would be interested in making a trade considering Rodriguez should be back before the end of the year and Chavez is already available to play against righties.
Associated Press photo