The Yankees have reason to see the Injured List (IL) as the devil thwarting their plans. Down the stretch, though, it can be their best friend…
The Yankees and the Injured List (IL) are almost synonymous when reviewing the 2019 season to date. Through good fortune, roster depth, and the management skills of Aaron Boone, the team has overcome a total of 16 players missing from the clubhouse at one time or another since the beginning of the season.
Most are familiar names by now, extending from Miguel Andujar who is out for the season to run of the mill 10-day IL types like DJ LeMahieu (probable for Aug.2), CC Sabathia (Aug. 11), Brett Gardner (Aug. 2), and Luke Voit (Aug 15), and on to Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton, and Luis Severino, who have no specific dates scheduled for their return. Each has their story, but in sum, they add up to a weakened team still trying to keep their head above water.
With a little more than 50 games remaining in the regular-season schedule, the dog days of summer are upon us. The natural force of having played regularly for four solid months begins to take its toll on even the best-conditioned athletes. Days off are fewer and far between with make-ups and day-night doubleheaders necessary to pay for rainouts and lousy weather earlier in the season.
Players like Gio Urshela, stretching a single into a double, and Didi Gregorius gets “tweaked” on routine plays. It’s not a knock-out punch. They stay in the line-up, though not at full strength. It’s a common refrain heard in every major league clubhouse across America at this time of the year.
Yankees: Using The IL As A Weapon
There is a way, however, for the Yankees to help themselves. Aaron Boone has done a magnificent job of moving his position players in and out of the lineup, affording each regular a day off during each week of play. No doubt, it’s helped. But the question looms, is one day enough to completely recharge the mental battery of a player, and to work out those nagging kinks in the physical armor of a banged-up body?
I suppose the answer depends on the player. But one way to ensure a player gets a “full-blow” is to transfer him to the 10-day IL, retroactive to last game he played. In most cases, the Yankees do not need to make up an injury – they’re there – players are playing through them. But even so, if push comes to shove, MLB does not make a habit of ordering physicals for players put on the IL.
In this way, the Yankees can use the IL as a weapon to ensure their regular lineup is intact and fully rested for the playoffs in October. Gary Sanchez, for instance, has played in 77 games to date. Currently, on the IL, he is scheduled to return on or around Aug. 5. Come the middle of September, why not schedule another blow for the Yankees regular catcher?
Ditto for Brett Gardner, who played in virtually all of the Yankees games before a knee injury took him out of action. Aaron Judge, who is in a horrific slump, qualifies now for a break as he sends smoke signals to dugout spelling – “Something ain’t right here’. Gio Urshela (88 games) is another candidate, as is Aaron Hicks, who while only appearing in 57 games, still has that balky back to contend with as the season wears on.
Gleyber Torres, the leader of the pack with 99 games played, is only 22. But this is only his second season in the big leagues playing full bore.
Physical weariness leads to injuries. And that’s not to even consider mental fatigue.
Aaron Boone can still stick to his plan. The only difference is when Urshela hits the 10-day IL, DJ LeMahieu takes over third base, not for one day, but the entire 8-10 days (retroactive). Then the reverse kicks in when LeMahieu gets his breather.
I’m not suggesting the Yankees need to adopt this plan. I’m only saying it’s there for the taking if they want or need it. Aaron Boone has his pulse on the team and his players. But there should be no shame in bending the rules a bit to make the IL a weapon of choice for the Yankees over the next two months…