Baseball has just reached the first quarter mark and the Yankees are still in the race at the moment. No one can predict where the Yankees will be at season's end this October. Certainly, there is work to be done to get the Yankees to the finish line in a manner that would be satisfactory, meaning a playoff berth. What is on the horizon that may get the Yankees to their hopeful finish?
1. Tanaka and Nova
They are the two starting pitchers whose common ground may be the surgical procedure named for former Yankee starter Tommy John. Tanaka is trying, successfully so far, to avoid the surgery. Thursday he pitched three solid innings at AAA in his first rehab start that followed an injury, apparently unrelated to the dreaded TJ injury. Another start, possibly two, and Tanaka is back in the rotation. Ivan Nova, who actually had the surgery, is approaching the start of the 30 day rehab period that may mean a return to the rotation by July 1. It is unknown if Nova will quickly return to form and help the rotation down the stretch. Returning from Tommy John surgery can be a tricky proposition and it could take months to return to form, even following a return to the mound.
2. Time to Call up Refsnyder?
Perhaps it is time. Rob Refsnyder has begun to hit well at AAA but has committed nine errors. I am reminded that the Yankees regular third baseman, considered solid with the glove, has also committed nine errors this year. And don't expect Stephen Drew to be designated for assignment ( DFA) anytime soon, though it could be that he spends more time as a backup for three infield positions, no longer as a regular.
3. Aaron Judge/Jacob Lindgren
No, Judge isn't on the radar for a call up to the Bronx--yet. But Judge is the organization's top prospect and should, in the not too distant future earn a call up to AAA. That's one step from a call to the show. Then, anything is possible. Thursday Judge drove home the winning run in walk off fashion for AA Trenton. Lindgren is already at AAA and is drawing attention while a couple of relievers in New York struggle. Lindgren's time may come even sooner than Judge.
The Yankees may have to clear some roster space, and some players' 40 man roster status may be teetering on the brink. Slade Heathcott returned to the 40 man when pitcher Chase Whitely was moved to the 60 day DL. Here's hoping no one else has to go on the 60 day list, which means clearing roster space by dumping one or more off the 40 man roster. DFA speculation will probably involve a handful of players.
5. Deadline Dealing
If all goes well with pitchers coming back from injury and with some depth at Scranton, there may be no need to bolster pitching from outside the organization. Hitting is another story and even though a blockbuster deal does not seem probable, the Yankees will likely explore opportunities to strengthen their bench or create a platoon in in the every day line up. It is too early to speculate on specifics, but no one could have predicted Chase Headley and Martin Prado would be added until it actually happened. Sometimes referred to as "under the radar" deals, this time they could make a difference. Expect the Yankees to be active at or before the July 31 deadline.
With the Belmont Stakes just around the corner, a baseball season is much like a horse race. They both are about maintaining position and working for an opening, and staying in the race until the home stretch and a strong push to the finish line. Expecting some players to improve their performance is part of that push. Sometimes the other necessary part is tweaking the roster. Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have their work cut out for them.