Ask anyone in Major League Baseball: The New York Yankees have an all-star lineup – on the injured list.
On Saturday at Yankee Stadium, Aaron Judge grimaced after singling in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals. He limped to first base wearing a look that has become all too familiar to the team this season.
An MRI later in the evening confirmed what the Yankees were fearing. Judge, the more fearsome hitter in their lineup, had suffered a significant strain of the oblique muscle on the left side of his abdomen.
“It’s Aaron Judge. He’s one of the great players in the game,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Taken on its own, this would be a serious setback for the Yankees. Oblique injuries then to be very troublesome and when Judge was placed on injured list it was done with the understanding there was no sense predicting when he might return.
“Pretty significant strain in there,” Boone said. “These next couple of weeks will kind of be a lot of just the healing process, so I think once we get through these first couple of weeks, then we’ll have a better timeline.”
What made Judge’s injury harder to take was it was just the latest in a string of injuries which has already disabled the team. Judge is the 14th player placed on the IR this season. And we’re still more than week away from the first day of May.
Here is the list: Judge (oblique), Aaron Hicks (back), Giancarlo Stanton (biceps), Didi Gregorius (Tommy John), Greg Bird (torn plantar fascia), Miguel Andujar (shoulder), Gary Sanchez (calf), Luis Severino (strained latissimus), Dellin Betances (shoulder), Jordan Montgomery (Tommy John), Troy Tulowitzki (calf), Ben Heller (Tommy John) and Jacoby Ellsbury (multiple ailments). Pitcher C.C. Sabathia started the season on IR but has returned to action.
This was the second oblique strain of Judge’s career. In September 2016, he strained the right side fouling off a pitch against the Dodgers and missed the remainder of the season.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as the one I did in ’16, but it’s a different side,” Judge said.
Judge had homered in the first inning of Saturday’s game. He had played in all 20 games this season and was batting .288 with five home runs and 11 RBIs.
In all, the Yankees are currently able to field only two players who started last season’s Wild Card game – Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres.
Despite it all, the Yankees are still 11-10, just 2 ½ games behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. On Sunday, they closed a homestand by winning their third straight over the Royals.
Still, the loss of Judge is not good news for the Yankees . When he broke his wrist when hit by a pitch last July 26 they were 29 games over .500. The team went 25-20 until he returned on Sept. 14.
“He’s one guy on our team that’s irreplaceable,” outfielder Brett Gardner said. … At this point, you don’t really know what to think of it. You just kind of shake your head.”
During the 2018 season, the Yankees set a MLB record with 267 home runs, Stanton, Judge, Hicks, Gregorius, Sanchez, Andujar and Bird had 175 of them. They also accounted for 515 RBIs.
“Especially tough times like this, when a lot of guys are beat up. I wanted to be out there in the trenches with the guys every single day,” Judge said Sunday.
Because of the injuries, the Yankees used a makeshift starting lineup in their 7-6, 10-inning win over the Royals on Sunday – Mike Ford (first), DJ LeMahieu (second), Gio Urshela (third), Tyler Wade (shortstop), Mike Tauchman (left), Brett Gardner (center), Clint Frazier (right), Austin Romine (catcher) and Voit (designated hitter).
“The guys pressed into more regular roles than certainly any of us expected at this point have been productive and have been shown to be good players,” Boone said. “And some of our young players that have very bright futures have stepped up and performed at a really high level.”
Things are so bad that the Yankees have only one healthy position player remaining on their 40-man roster. And Thairo Estrada made his MLB debut on Sunday be executing a perfect sacrifice bunt that set up the victory.
The Yankees are expecting Sanchez to return during their series in Los Angeles against the Angels this week. Tulowitzki, Andujar and Hicks are recovering at the Yankees spring training complex in Tampa.
“I truly feel it’s going to make it that much sweeter, having gone through all of this,” Boone said. “And we have a resilient group in there. We’re getting plenty of good news with players as they continue to work their way back. And we’ll find our way through this.”