Never mind last night's loss to the Red Sox. The Yankees have far more pressing issues that a one-game deficit in the standings on May 12. What the Yankees need right now is an outfield as Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui are both on the DL with injuries to their left wrists and Johnny Damon is literally banged up, his achy left shoulder and sprained right foot having been aggravated by another collision with the outfield wall last night.
Damon will continue to play through his pains, but a few days at DH would be advisable as the last thing the Yankees can afford right now is to have either of Damon's ouchies turn into a chronic injury that might effect his offense or availability. That means a Yankee outfield of Melky Cabrera, Bubba Crosby and Bernie Williams might become a common sight over the next couple of series. Gulp. One thing's for sure, with Matsui and Sheff on the DL and Kevin Reese having been called up to take Matsui's spot on the roster, those three along with Damon will see the bulk of the playing time in the outfield and at DH.
I'm tempted to say that the time has come for Torre to make Andy Phillips his primary DH, sitting him only to give Damon an occasional break from the field. Certainly a line-up with Phillips at DH, Damon in center, Melky in one corner and a Bernie/Bubba righty/lefty platoon in the other inspires more confidence than what we're more likely to see, which is Bernie at DH and an outfield of Bubba, Damon and Melky from left to right. But I think I've finally given up hoping that Phillips will get his shot. That said, the Yankees will face lefty starters tonight and tomorrow, so there's a ray of hope.
Barring Joe seeing the light on Andy, here's what the Yankee line-up will look like for the next week or two:
L - Johnny Damon (CF/DH)
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
L - Jason Giambi (1B)
R - Alex Rodriguez (3B)
S - Jorge Posada (C)
L - Robinson Cano (2B)
S - Bernie Williams (DH/RF)
L - Bubba Crosby (LF/CF)
S - Melky Cabrera (RF/LF)
You can kiss 1,000 runs goodbye.
As for Kevin Reese, he was the fourth outfielder I most favored coming out of spring training. As I've said before, I thought Melky needed a full season at triple-A and didn't want to see him rushed, though with the two injuries and Melky's hot start in Columbus it would have been impossible for the Yankees not to have promoted him by now. As for the difference between the two Kevins, there is something reckless and volatile about Kevin Thompson's playing style that I thought would lead to numerous mistakes coming off the bench. I could just see Thompson making the team because of his bat, but being used primarily on defense and as a pinch runner and running into outs and committing wacky errors. Reese, meanwhile, seemed like the ideal bench bat, a lefty with patience and more power than either Thompson or Cabrera and without the flashy speed that would tempt Torre to use him as anything other than a compliment to the right-handed Phillips and lefty-killing Bernie.
The problem is that Reese hasn't hit much at all thus far this year and his power has almost completely disappeared. In 109 triple-A at-bats this season, Reese has hit .257/.336/.376. This after seeing his line drop from .323/.370/.521 in a half-season in triple-A in 2004 to .276/.359/.450 in his first full-season with Columbus last year. Reese just turned 28 so he's not going to get better. He likely won't play either, though he does give Torre a fifth outfielder in case the Yankee skipper is inspired to pinch-hit Phillips for Crosby against a lefty in a big game situation.
Barring another injury or an abysmal performance from Cabrera, Reese will return to Columbus when Sheffield is activated. According to Will Carroll, the MRI Sheffield is scheduled to undergo next week is merely a diagnostic to allow the Yankees to gauge his healing process. The continued rumors about possible damage to his hamate bone appear to be unfounded as Will says Sheffield's injury is "just ligaments." Adding, "He'd be fine if he'd had the cortisone."
For those who missed it, Sheffield refused a cortisone shot in his wrist because of the lingering effects of the drug, overuse of which can make tendons and ligaments brittle. Sheffield had a three cortisone shots in the same wrist while with the Braves in 2002. Now nearing the end of his contract and his career, Sheffield has become unwilling to risk his future health for a few extra at-bats, though I wonder if he might be willing to change his tune now that his return has become so much more important to the team, or if the dire state of the Yankee outfield will prompt Sheffield to try to use that cortisone shot as leverage toward getting his $13 million option picked up for next season.
As for Matsui, the latest from Will is that the injury appears to be to the arm bones (the ulna or radius or both) much like Derrek Lee's, which would mean it would be about 8-10 weeks until Matsui returns to action, though at this point that remains speculation.
In other injury news, weather permitting, Carl Pavano will make his second rehab start tonight. In his first rehab start on Sunday with single-A Tampa he threw five innings allowing three unearned runs on four hits (one homer) and a walk while striking out four. Will Carroll has reported that some in the organization want to activate Pavano as soon as possible on grounds that they don't want to waste any of the time Pavano's healthy enough to pitch. He's expected to make at least one more start in Trenton on Wednesday, the weather and his performance in those two outings will obviously have a lot to say about when the Yankees will be willing to plug him into the rotation.
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By the way, I've used that headline before. Way back on August 13, 2003 when my old Big Red Blog was in its infancy. For yucks, here's the post that followed:
That's a lame M*A*S*H reference if you don't get it. Anyway, turns out Wells will miss his next start in favor of Sterling Hitchcock (ouch). No official word yet on his back, however. Meanwhile, Jason Giambi may need off-season knee surgery. The good news is that means more Nick the Stick at first. The bad new is Jason Giambi may need knee surgery. Ugh. I don't know about you, but I think it's very obvious that Bernie is far from 100% on his repaired knee. He's not getting to balls in the outfield and he's more station-to-station on the bases than before, unsure about taking that chance for the extra base. And thus begins Bernie's slow transformation into Paul Molitor (I hope . . . the alternative is not comforting).
The germs of many unfortunate events lurk in that one paragraph. Wells' back cost the Yankees that year's World Series, Giambi had the surgery, but that and other injuries and health problems combined to basically wipe out his 2004 season, Johnson was traded that winter, and as for Bernie, well, let's just say he's not reminding anybody of Paul Molitor these days.