The Yankees have been hit with a series of significant injuries this season – including some before the season even started — but their current roster looks almost exactly like their Opening Day roster, with five exceptions.
When Gardner hurt his elbow in mid-April, the Yankees initially went with a short bench. Then they called up Dewayne Wise. They didn’t truly fill Gardner’s shoes until their trade for Ichiroa little less than two weeks ago. Ichiro will takeover in left field and bring a speed element that’s been missing since Gardner went down. Based on Ichiro’s numbers this season, the Gardner-for-Ichiro swap is a downgrade, but it comes with significant upside if Ichiro can inch a little closer to his career numbers.
Immediate replacement: Cody Eppley
Current replacement: Joba Chamberlain
Eppley was riding the Triple-A shuttle when he was called up to replace Rivera in early May. In the months since, the closer’s job has temporarily belonged to Dave Robertson and falling full-time to Rafael Soriano, but the Yankees hadn’t added a true late-inning force until Chamberlain came off the disabled list on Tuesday. He won’t slide into Rivera’s ninth inning, but he certainly could give the Yankees the sort of three-man, late-inning force that they carried out of spring training. It was originally Soriano-to-Robertson-to-Rivera, but Chamberlain-to-Robertson-to-Soriano isn’t a bad backup plan.
Immediate replacement: Jayson Nix
Current replacement: Jayson Nix
Nix was actually called up after Eric Chavez suffered a concussion a little more than a week before Nunez was sent down. But when Chavez was healthy, it was Nunez who came off the roster, and the Yankees have kept the same utility infielder ever since. Sure, Ramiro Pena was around for about week, but Nix has settled into the job, and he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Nix has started at four different positions, and he’s been fairly productive at a plate for a guy in his role. The Yankees were expecting much more from Nunez, but they’ve gotten enough from his replacement.
When the Yankees really needed an extra setup man, Wade delivered. He was awfully good during the month when Dave Robertson was on the disabled list, but when the magic wore off, the Yankees shipped Wade to Triple-A and activated newly acquired Qualls. But the guy who’s really settled into Wade’s middle-inning role is Eppley, probably the biggest surprise of the season. Leaning heavily on his ability to get right-handers to hit the ball on the ground, Eppley has become a go-to reliever, kind of a right-handed complement to Clay Rapada.
Immediate replacement: Ramiro Pena
Current replacement: Casey McGehee
The Yankees have put a series of pitchers on the disabled list this season — from Michael Pineda to Andy Pettitte — but until Rodriguez broke his hand in Seattle, the Yankees hadn’t put a single position player on the 15-day DL since Gardner in early April. Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez and Russell Martin have been a little banged up from time to time, but the lineup avoided long-term injuries until that changeup hit Rodriguez on the hand. The injury prompted Tuesday’s deadline deal for McGehee, an experienced corner infielder who will add some right-handed pop to a lineup that had become left-heavy. McGehee is no Rodriguez, but he might be able to hit one out every now and then against left-handers, helping fill the void until Rodriguez returns.
Associated Press photos