The 2019 “Next Man Up” Yankees endured a historic barrage of injuries that were thought to be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, with the Bombers establishing a Major League record by having 30 players serve 39 stints on the injured list.
Despite those absences, manager Aaron Boone piloted his squad to 103 regular-season victories and five more in the postseason, becoming the first skipper to notch 100 or more wins in each of his first two seasons at the helm. It looks as though the Yankees may face similar challenges early in the 2020 season, with several bold-faced names already expected to miss action.
Here is a look at the current traffic report in the Yankees’ trainers’ room, with players listed in alphabetical order:
Aaron Hicks, OF -- Tommy John right elbow surgery
Injured on Aug. 3 at Boston, Hicks rehabbed his right ulnar collateral ligament in order to participate in the Yanks’ postseason run, connecting for a three-run homer off the Astros’ Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. As Hicks revealed this spring, he understood that his elbow would eventually require Tommy John surgery, which he underwent on Oct. 30 in Los Angeles.
Estimated return: General manager Brian Cashman has said that Hicks could be ready to play in big league games in June, July or August. Last season, shortstop Didi Gregorius returned to the Yanks’ lineup on June 9, which marked an unusually brisk 235-day recovery from his date of surgery. Hicks said he hopes that can be the case for him, but he noted that Gregorius’ rehab was almost perfect.
Aaron Judge, OF -- stress fracture of first right rib
The Yankees believe that Judge’s injury dates to an attempted catch in the outfield on Sept. 18. The stress fracture was not discovered at that time, and Judge received at least one injection as he played through the end of the regular season and the postseason. Judge said he felt “normal soreness” during November workouts, then shut down on-field activities in late January due to discomfort in his right shoulder. He complained of right pectoral discomfort in late February, and it took 10 to 12 tests before a CT scan highlighted the stress fracture, which was announced on March 6.
Estimated return: Judge has been told to rest for two weeks (tentatively, March 20), at which time a new CT scan will be taken to evaluate healing. The best-case scenario would have Judge resume on-field activities shortly after that date, though Judge said he has been ruled out for Opening Day. Boone has said that surgery to remove the rib may be considered if rest does not heal the injury. That procedure would have an estimated recovery time of at least three months.
James Paxton, LHP -- microscopic lumbar discectomy and removal of peridiscal cyst
Paxton’s injury dates to a Sept. 27 start against the Rangers in Texas, when he lasted only one inning with what was said at the time to be a glute issue. Painkillers permitted Paxton to continue pitching through the postseason, but he continued to experience lower-back issues throughout the offseason that required new rounds of injections. A dye contrast MRI taken in late January revealed the cyst, which was removed on Feb. 5 in Dallas.
Estimated return: At the time of surgery, the Yankees said that Paxton could return to a big league mound in three to four months (May to June). Paxton has been walking without issue and said that he may receive clearance to begin his throwing program on Wednesday.
Gary Sánchez, C -- sore lower back
Sánchez mentioned soreness in his lower back after catching five innings in back-to-back games on March 5 and March 6. He has been receiving treatment from the Yanks’ training staff and has been able to continue some level of catching drills, though he has not taken on-field batting practice since the March 6 game. Sánchez had not undergone an MRI as of Monday.
Estimated return: After initially saying that he was aiming to have Sánchez in the lineup on Tuesday against the Blue Jays, Boone said that he decided to offer Sánchez two more days of rest due to the club traveling across the state of Florida for two games this week. Boone now says that he expects Sánchez to catch on Friday against the Tigers.
Luis Severino, RHP -- Tommy John right elbow surgery
Severino’s injury dates to his start in Game 3 of the 2019 ALCS, when he reported right forearm soreness to the medical staff. Though he would have been on the mound if the Yankees forced a seventh game, Severino continued to experience discomfort during the offseason, requiring two trips to New York for testing. Severino complained of issues when throwing his changeup and a dye contrast MRI taken on Feb. 25 revealed a partial tear of Severino’s ulnar collateral ligament. Severino underwent surgery on Feb. 27 in New York.
Estimated return: Severino is expected to miss all of the 2020 season and, as Cashman said at the time of the announcement, part of the ’21 campaign. Generally speaking, the recovery time for pitchers who undergo Tommy John surgery is 12 to 15 months.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF -- Grade 1 strain of right calf
Stanton sustained his right calf injury while performing outfield drills on Feb. 25 at George M. Steinbrenner Field, with a Grade 1 strain confirmed by an MRI. It marked the latest installment in a litany of injuries for Stanton, who has also dealt with left biceps, left shoulder, left calf, right knee and right quadriceps issues since the beginning of 2019. Stanton has resumed throwing and hitting off coaches as of Monday, and he has run on an anti-gravity treadmill.
Estimated return: Cashman said that he does not expect Stanton to be ready for the March 26 season opener, but the Yankees believe that Stanton could be ready for big league action sometime in April.