By the time Alex Rodriguez went for an x-ray on Tuesday night, the Yankees should have expected the worst. Through some bad luck, some bad timing and some bad situations, the Yankees have seven key 40-man players on the disabled list, each expected to miss significant time. This list doesn’t including Dave Robertson, CC Sabathia and Eric Chavez — each of whom has been DL’d at one time or another this season — or top pitching prospects Manny Banuelos and Jose Campos.
Right ankle dislocation
Games missed: 98
What was lost: Let’s say Chamberlain was going to miss the first two months regardless because of last year’s Tommy John surgery. That means he’s missed 48 games because of the dislocated ankle. The spring training trampoline accident has essentially pushed back Chamberlain’s return in a year when the Yankees have also spent time without Mariano Rivera and Dave Robertson.
Filling the hole: The Yankees knew they were going to have this particular hole on their roster, they just didn’t expect it to stay open this long. Losing Chamberlain has allowed guys like Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley and — for a while — Cory Wade to really step up in big spots. Right now it seems that Chad Qualls is the one filling the roster spot that will eventually be Chamberlain’s.
Lower back strain
Games missed: 98
What was lost: Depth. That’s what was really lost when Romine couldn’t quite get over his nagging back injury in spring training. The Yankees had already traded Montero and Romine was expected to finally become the top upper-level catching prospect in the system. Instead he’s spent the entire season on the disabled list, only recently getting into a few games.
Filling the hole: The Yankees were never really planning to carry Romine on their big league roster, but they were certainly counting on him being available in Triple-A, providing good, young depth behind the plate. Without Romine, the Yankees traded for Chris Stewart and optioned Francisco Cervelli as a way to re-create that catching depth. Hard to say whether the Yankees would have shown such unwavering patience with Russell Martin this season if Romine were healthy and hitting in the minors.
Right rotator cuff tendinitis (later diagnosed as a torn labrum)
Games missed: 98
What was lost: This was the Yankees biggest offseason acquisition, a player that came at the cost of elite hitting prospect Jesus Montero. Such a high cost — despite Montero’s own struggles this season — has made Pineda’s shoulder injury especially hard to swallow. Pineda was the Yankees new, shiny toy and he has yet to be unwrapped. When he is, he might not be quite the same as expected.
Filling the hole: The Yankees had more starters than they knew what to do with in the first place, so Pineda’s injury simply opened the door for the other five starting pitchers who were competing for spots in spring training. David Phelps was given a roster spot because of Pineda’s shoulder, and perhaps Phil Hughes was given a little more patience because of it.
Right elbow strain
Games missed: 87
What was lost: Speed and defense, mostly. The Yankees have found two experience left field replacements in Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez, and those provide significantly more power than Gardner, but neither can run or field nearly as well. Gardner brought a unique skill set to this roster, and until Monday, the Yankees hadn’t found a player quite like him.
Filling the hole: Until this week, the Yankees filled Gardner’s spot by putting Ibanez and Jones in the field more often than expected, but on Monday they traded for Ichiro Suzuki. At this stage of his career, Ichiro is no longer one of the elite leadoff hitters in baseball, but he could become perfect Gardner substitute. Gardner has a .355 career on-base percentage, and if Ichiro can reach base at that rate down the stretch, he’ll have a positive impact.
Torn right ACL
Games missed: 73
What was lost: Mo was lost. Simple as that. The Yankees had the greatest closer in the game, a source of absolute stability in the ninth inning, and we went down in a heap along the warning track in Kansas City. It was a stunning blow — unthinkable even — and the Yankees had to suddenly face a world of uncertainty.
Filling the hole: There is only one Rivera, but the Yankees already had a pretty good substitute in Rafael Soriano. Pushed into the closer’s role after both Rivera and Dave Robertson landed on the disabled list, Soriano has done his best to re-live his standout 2010 season. With Robertson still in place as an elite setup man, the back of the Yankees bullpen hasn’t missed a beat. Rivera’s legacy and status is about more than one season, but in this small window, they’ve found a way to reasonable replace him.
Fractured left ankle
Games missed: 24
What was lost: It was Pettitte just as everyone remembered him. Except with more strikeouts. Brought out of retirement in the middle of spring training, Pettitte returned to the Yankees in mid-May and remarkably returned to form. The Yankees had shown nothing but confidence, and Pettitte was justifying their faith with a 3.22 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning. Then a comebacker hit off his foot and Pettitte was done.
Filling the hole: Actually, the Yankees replaced Pettitte by trusting that another veteran pitcher could return to form. Freddy Garcia had been brutal in April, so bad that he was banished to mopup duty in the bullpen, but when Pettitte and CC Sabathia went on the DL at the same time, Garcia was forced back into rotation duty, and he’s been a solid fifth starter. Nothing flashy, but the Yankees weren’t expecting him to be flashy. He’s pitched to a 3.90 ERA since returning to the rotation.
Left fifth metacarpal fracture
Games missed: 1
What was lost: Rodriguez was having another down season. He was still getting on base, but he wasn’t hitting for his usual power, which made him a questionable choice in the middle of the order. Of course, Rodriguez was also getting hot this month and he’d just homered the night before Felix Hernandez hit him in the left hand with a misplaced changeup.
Filling the hole: For now all we know is what happened last night. Eric Chavez started at third base, Curtis Granderson moved into the middle of the order and Joe Girardi announced a platoon of Chavez and Jayson Nix. It may very well be that the Yankees stick with this plan, trusting Chavez and Nix to hold down the fort while they wait for Rodriguez to recover from his broken hand. Eduardo Nunez also looms as an in-house option, and the trade deadline is still a few days away.
Associated Press photos