The Yankees lost Thursday's rubber game against the Seattle Mariners (just the second series loss of the month) and potentially lost much more. Andy Pettitte left after just 4.2 innings with a tweaked trapezius muscle and Chris Stewart, forced into starting catcher duties after an injury to Francisco Cervelli, limped off the field with a left groin strain. While the severity of Stewart's injury is unknown, Pettitte's was deemed not too serious.
To a weary Yankees team and fan base this injury refrain is all too familiar. At some point, these injuries will stop. It can't continue at this ludicrous pace because not even the baseball fates can still be enjoying this stream of injured Yankee after injured Yankee.
The pre-season injuries were bad enough as they spurred questions of how the Yankees would survive the first month of the season in a loaded A.L. East without Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Michael Pineda. After opening the season losing four of their first five, the patchwork Yankees responded in surprising and gratifying fashion with steady and workman like play propelling them into first place. Therefore the questions subsided albeit briefly.
Even when Jeter suffered a major setback and Teixeira's return was pushed back from sometime in May to early June (if all went well) things seemed to be okay because the fill-ins were holding their own. Then even they began to fall to the injury bug: Cervelli, in the midst of an extremely productive season as the de-facto starting catcher, broke his hand. Eduardo Nunez, the fill-in shortstop, went down with a sore ribcage. Kevin Youkilis, the fill-in at 3B, battled unsuccessfully through a lumbar spine sprain before succumbing to the discomfort. Ivan Nova, the inconsistent but promising fifth starter, strained his triceps and reliever Joba Chamberlain went down with a right oblique strain, which unfortunately, left his mouth just fine. All five are currently on the disabled list.
Even with Granderson making his return earlier this week, there are ten members of the Yankees 40 Man Roster on either the 15-Day or the 60-Day DL. The New York Times keeps a running tally of the value of all the players each Major League team currently has on the DL. The Yankees are easily leading the pack with $85.6MM, or 37.5% of their payroll, on the DL. A distant second on the list are the Los Angeles Dodgers with $67.2MM.
Despite those losses, somehow the Yankees kept rolling using timely hits and stellar pitching to continue winning series. At some point, however, all these injuries just might catch up to them. The team has been hanging on for dear life, just waiting for the injured players to come riding in for some relief but at this rate it might not be in time.
Joe Girardi toed the expected line after the game, telling the YES Network, "You've [got to] move forward. That's the bottom line...No excuses, you've [got to] get it done" but what else can a major league manager say, especially one at the helm of the team with the highest payroll in the majors? Not too many will sympathize.
With 10 of the 14 remaining May games against division rivals, these next 15 days will be very important. It would be nice to have a healthy team ready for that gauntlet but that's not the reality and won't be for quite some time. The baseball fates aren't done laughing quite yet.