Yankees Fans (Photo: NBC 10)

Yankees Returning From The IL – Problem Solved? Not So Fast…

The Yankee’s comfort zone in 2019 will always be when their All-Stars on the IL return to the clubhouse. Still, the B-Bombers hold the keys to the door…

No one can say if the Yankees B-Bombers have a better or worse record than the Yankee’s A-Team that includes Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, Aaron Hicks, and Didi Gregorius would have, if healthy, at this stage of the 2019 season, which is now already at the quarter-pole.

What we can say, though, is that at some point this season, the team will be whole again. There will be an uptick in the injury updates that Aaron Boone is obligated to provide, and his comfort level in filling out a lineup card will increase as each Yankee trickles in – pronounced as ready to resume all baseball activities by team doctors.

If it were only as simple as that.

Yankees: Problem Solved – Yes. Problem Created – Yes.

There is no substitute in baseball for playing every day. There is no substitute for driving to the ballpark, dressing, reading mail, chatting with teammates, watching video, taking batting practice, and all the things ballplayers do in establishing the unique routine that gets them ready to face a 98 mph fastball four or five times that day.

The B-Bombers, formerly known in this column as The Replacements until a reader pointed out the replacements as players that teams used when the last strike occurred had a negative connotation (thank you), have been regulars in the Yankee lineup for a month-and-a-half now. Gio Urshela, DJ LeMahieu, Clint Frazier, Domingo German, Mike Tauchman, and more recently, Cameron Maybin, are all parts of the team we now identify as the second-place playoff qualifying New York Yankees.

The B-Bombers are a unit, albeit maybe the kickoff return squad on an NFL team – they are still a unit – and a winning one at that. In the absence of the A-Team, the B-Bombers own and have transformed the Yankee’s clubhouse with a new identity. Upbeat, confident, the “next-man-up” attitude prevails.

Soon, Aaron Hicks, as an example only, (seen below taking batting practice two days ago) will return from his stint on the IL. Out of action since the first of March, it is only an accident if he has met Mike Tauchman, the player he will be replacing, or the second best hitter on the team now, Gio Urshela. To be sure, this is not the same team Hicks left last October, and it will be incumbent on him to “fit in”, despite his veteran status and $38 million contract.

More significantly though, Aaron Hicks, minus a few games against sub-par major league pitching during the past week, is bound to be rusty and in need of serious playing time before he recovers his stroke. And don’t forget that all-important routine. Aaron Boone will grant Hicks that time and all the time beyond that if he needs it…

Until The Other Shoe Drops…

But in the meantime, witness the struggles of another returning player, Miguel Andujar, currently owning a .143 BA with no extra-base hits in the eleven games he’s played. Aaron Boone reflected on Andujar’s return telling the New York Daily News:

“He’s just not there yet, although he’s hit a number of balls on the button,” Boone said. “He lined out to the fence two nights ago where it was probably 105 off the bat where he really smoked it. He just missed a home run down the line last night.Kristie Ackert, New York Daily News

Mumbo jumbo seems to me. “He just missed” doesn’t help the Yankees who are playing games that mean something in the thick of an already intense pennant race. No harm, no foul against Andujar who will, as Boone says, come around to help the team.

Just as Hicks will. And Judge, Stanton, and all the rest when they return.

Aaron Boone’s Challenge Is Just Beginning

Fortunately for Aaron Boone, the Yankees are trickling in from the IL. Gary Sanchez first, then Andujar, and now Hicks is allowing Boone the opportunity to blend each player into the lineup while still keeping the productive B-Bombers in there to offset the lack of production from the returning players.

Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees (Photo: nj.com)
Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees (Photo: nj.com)

After Hicks, Didi Gregorius appears to be next. Gregorius last touched a baseball or bat last October in the ALDS against the Red Sox. Later, Judge and Stanton will once again try to tame their oversized baseball bodies – a timing feat of huge proportions – in a short period of time (August?) – before the Yankees face competition in the playoffs.

Boone has been fortunate the DH spot is relatively open now, so he can slot Andujar in there while keeping defensively gold Urshela at third base. Soon, however, the designated hitter spot in the lineup will again be clogged and something will have to give.

The B-Bombers – Don’t Count Them Out Yet

Make no mistake, the B-Bombers are living on borrowed time. Remembering that baseball is a business, it has to be that way given the salaries the Yankees are paying their inactive All-Stars.

And because the Yankees can ill afford an extended slip in a pennant race between Tampa Bay (who, the B-Bombers just won two of three games from), Boston, and Yankees – as players return from the IL – the B-Bombers will continue to be an integral part of the Yankee’s success or failure this season.

Everyone said it was a good thing all these injuries came early in the season, leaving plenty of time for the team to recoup their losses if necessary.

I’m not so sure about that anymore. Just as I’m not sure the Yankees can withstand the “gearing-up” process for each player when they return to the lineup.

Remarkably, my comfort level, though not necessarily that of Aaron Boone’s, rests with the B-Bombers.

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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