- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
The New York Yankees know as well as any team that wrist and hand injuries -- like the one suffered by Mark Teixeira -- come with enormous uncertainty. The doctors are saying the first baseman will miss eight to 10 weeks, but that's assuming there are no setbacks, as there were time and again for former Yankee Nick Johnson, who wound up missing months and months because of wrist problems.
The Yankees officials who gathered at Legends Field to talk Wednesday evening also know that even if the doctors' projected timeline for Teixeira is 100 percent accurate and he's back and ready to play sometime in late May, there is no guarantee that he'll swing with full power or efficiency. Wrist injuries to hitters can be really tricky, because that last needed snap in the swing of a bat can be elusive. The strength might not be there entirely, or maybe the hitter is subconsciously protecting against reinjury, or maybe the swing mechanics aren't fully recovered.
The Yankees officials know from experience that it's within the realm of possibility that Teixeira could be back and banging balls into the upper deck by late spring, or that his wrist problem could essentially wash out his season. Everything else can be working great for a hitter, but if there's a problem with the wrists or hands, that's a game-changer. Michael Bourn was a candidate for a top-10 MVP vote in the first half of the 2012 season, hitting .311, and in the second half, he batted .225 while fighting through a wrist injury.
But for planning purposes, the Yankees cannot worry about that. They listen to the projections from their doctors, and the timeline that has been presented to them is that Curtis Granderson will be back sometime early in the season, after a month, and Teixeira will be back soon after that. Given that information, they almost certainly won't go out and make some hyperaggressive move; they're much more likely to scan the list of guys who are losing job battles in other camps, players who are cut free.
As they do their due diligence, they might at least talk about someone like a Scott Rolen. Don Kelly could be a fit (total speculation), if he doesn't win a spot with the Detroit Tigers. Maybe Russ Canzler, one of the kings of the waiver wire in the winter and claimed and then lost by the Yankees in the offseason, will pass through again (although he put on a show for the Orioles Wednesday). On paper, the Mariners might have some surplus as they sort through their DH-1B options.
There are some silver linings around the edges, obscured by the disastrous injuries. Brett Gardner looks really good and is having a good spring training, and Travis Hafner seems to be settling in and enjoying his first experience in the Yankees' camp.
But manager Joe Girardi should probably refrain from invoking his inner Rick Pitino, who once famously noted who was not going to walk through the door. Babe Ruth is not walking through the door for the Yankees, and neither is Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Paul O'Neill or Tino Martinez. Heck, they may not even see the real Mark Teixeira come through the door all year, given the nature of his injury.
Girardi said on the first day of spring training that the Yankees will probably have to figure out other ways to manufacture runs, and when you look at their projected lineup, well, he spoke the truth more than he realized.
CF Brett Gardner
SS Derek Jeter
DH Travis Hafner
1B Juan Rivera
Girardi speaks a glass-half-full kind of language, and so today what he can feel good about is that if the Yankees' aging rotation stays healthy, it should be pretty good. CC Sabathia looks good. Andy Pettitte looks really good. Hiroki Kuroda was really good last year. It may be, too, that no team is really poised to sprint away with the AL East, a division that appears to be filled with clubs that all could be good but not great.
But it won't be easy for the Yankees, and it could be really difficult. Under a different context, Girardi said on that first day that he viewed the Yankees as a team capable of winning 95 games. Now the hope for them is that they hang in, in a mud-bog division race, until somebody comes through the door to help carry the load, at least a little.
Brian Cashman delivered the news from a wheelchair.
From ESPN Stats & Information, some more on what the Teixeira injury means.
Hal Steinbrenner did a Q&A with Mark Feinsand. Slowly, the youngest Steinbrenner son is becoming more comfortable doing media stuff -- which will be incredibly important this summer if the team struggles, because he's going to be needed front and center, embracing the proverbial The Buck Stops Here thing. Within the Q&A, Steinbrenner notes that the team has won one championship with a decade of $200 million payrolls.
These Bombers may get bad reviews, writes Ken Davidoff.
Derek Jeter has yet to run the bases at full speed.
Ryan and the Rangers
The drama over whether or not Nolan Ryan is going to stay with the Rangers is not going to end until he speaks and puts it to rest, and he declined to talk to reporters Wednesday.
As I wrote the other day: There has been a sense of unrest with Ryan for a while, and he rates high on the Stubborn Meter. He is in position to be both directly aggressive and passive aggressive, or either, if he chooses.
Detroit closer drama
Dave Dombrowski remains coy on the closer issue, writes Lynn Henning. From the piece:
Even as the Tigers scramble to find a bullpen closer in the wake of rookie Bruce Rondon's struggles, Dombrowski was calm and upbeat, portraying concerns about Rondon as more of a public and media fixation than anything that has the Tigers worried.
"Let's see how he does," Dombrowski said during a conversation in his office overlooking Marchant Stadium. "I realize it (the closer issue) will get a lot of attention. But the reality is, it (camp) still has a long haul to go."
Dombrowski was referring to Rondon's early Grapefruit League work that has seen the right-handed pitcher rack up a 7.36 ERA in four outings.
Rondon never was officially named closer heading into the 2013 season as the Tigers sought to replace the departed Jose Valverde. But he was plainly considered by Dombrowski and the front office to be a blessed candidate who would win the job during camp despite not having thrown a big league pitch.
That scenario could yet play out, even as Rondon has this week been confined to the bullpen. Pitching coach Jeff Jones has been smoothing mechanical problems the Tigers believe are at the heart of Rondon's twisted numbers: 3-2/3 innings, five hits, and five walks. On the plus side are Rondon's six strikeouts, the product of a lightning fastball and a power package the Tigers have loved since his breakthrough season in 2012.
"Before spring training, I said we'd be asked about our closer every single day," Dombrowski said after the Tigers beat the Blue Jays, 4-1, in Lakeland. "This is not anything that we didn't anticipate."