I thought about this when Robinson Cano was hit by the pitch on Tuesday: If he’d been seriously injured, the Yankees would have been left with only two players from their projected Opening Day lineup who hadn’t spent any time on the DL this season. When camp opened, there were a few platoon possibilities, and there were some lingering questions about Derek Jeter, but the general expectation for the Opening Day lineup seemed to go something like this:
Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Curtis Granderson LF
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Travis Hafner DH
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Francisco Cervelli C
Maybe you’d shuffle the order a little bit, mix in some platoon at-bats for Eduardo Nunez against lefties, and expect that Alex Rodriguez would be back at some point, but for the most part, that starting nine seemed likely. Amazing that now we can basically categorize them into three groups based strictly on their disabled list status.
THE HEALTHY FEW
Only three guys from that projected starting lineup have avoided major stints on the disabled list.
2B Robinson Cano
When he was hit in the hand on Monday, it was perhaps the biggest hold-your-breath moment of the season. The Yankees have gotten 492 at-bats out of their best player, and they’ve needed them.
CF Brett Gardner
Very nearly reached a career-high in at-bats already. He plays hard, and he’s been hurt often — played 16 regular-season games last year — but he’s been an everyday player this season with nearly the same OPS+ he had in 2010.
RF Ichiro Suzuki
Other players talk about what tremendous shape Ichiro is in, and it shows in his lasting durability. He’s the oldest player on this list, and he’s avoided the disabled list as well as any sort of short-term nagging injury.
THE UNLUCKY ONES
Weird things happen, and sometimes those things are costly.
LF Curtis Granderson
Hit by a pitch in spring training. Hit by a pitch again just days after rejoining the team. Two broken bones have limited Granderson to just 33 games in the walk year of his contract. Since his rookie year, he’s never played fewer than 136.
C Francisco Cervelli
Even before the Biogenesis scandal got him, Cervelli was hit in the throwing hand by a foul tip. The broken bone caused plenty of problems on its own, then a lingering elbow issue further delayed his return. Biogenesis made it a moot point in the end.
1B Mark Teixeira
Could make a case that this is an age issue, but a torn tendon sheath seems to have more to do with overuse and Teixeira’s practice of swinging a weighted bat. Teixeira worked himself into a DL stint and season-ending surgery. His 12 RBI came in just 15 games.
Some injuries are flukes, and some become more predictable with time.
3B Kevin Youkilis
Back problems are tricky. We’ve been told that plenty of times, and despite a clean MRI this offseason — and a strong spring training — Youkilis’s back went out again and made him a non-factor as Rodriguez’s replacement.
DH Travis Hafner
He’s played in more than 100 games only once in the past six years. The Yankees thought they could keep him healthy in a platoon situation, but his shoulder wore him down until finally sending him to the DL.
SS Derek Jeter
Is it age that made his ankle snap in October? Maybe not. But it’s hard to dismiss age as a factor in Jeter’s repeated setbacks while trying to recover. After Wednesday, he’s finally played more Major League than minor league games this season.
Associated Press photos