Yankees: Are They Destined To Learn A Lesson From The Mets

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees have, by most standards, a wealth of young pitching talent in their organization that is the envy of major league baseball. But, are they in line to receive a hard lesson from the Mets about how fleeting that can be?

The Yankees have assembled, from top to bottom, one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. A good portion of that talent are pitchers, who could arguably be on the staffs of several teams in the major leagues today.

Pitchers, unlike position players, are a unique lot, though, and they have a tendency to be here today and gone tomorrow. It happens quickly with one single pitch that twists this or turns that and all of a sudden there’s an appointment scheduled with Dr. James Andrews and the player is lost for a full season, and occasionally forever.

A short ride from the Bronx and over the Whitestone or Tri-Borough Bridge sit the New York Mets. The team in Queens that once had what the Yankees have, which can be summed up in one word – a future.

Pitching injuries, as some would have you believe, are not inevitable.

For the most part, they still have that future but not without a bunch of bumps and bruises along the way that seriously challenged the expectations of the team and their fans. And even now, there are legitimate questions about two of their starters, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, as to whether or not they will be injury free for any length of time.

What To Do With All The Talent?

The Yankees got their first taste of bad medicine delivered yesterday when James Kaprielian developed an issue in his elbow that will put him on the sidelines at least until the Yankees can determine the extent of his elbow injury and how his rehab should proceed from this point.

The axiom in baseball has always been that you can never have too much pitching. But, as the Yankees are witnessing now, that is a two-edged sword. Because when the pitchers in your organization are healthy, a log jam similar to the one the team has now is likely to surface.

Where do you put all the talent you have and still keep them fresh and challenged? And that’s how Jordan Montgomery, Chad Green, Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, and probably a few others get sent down while the big league team sorts things out at the top.

It’s like when your doctor asks you, on a scale of one to ten what is your pain level now? Ah, it’s three. As if I know.

The trouble is, though, that all of the aforementioned pitchers are all pitching. And it doesn’t matter where they are pitching; they are still pitching. And with the game being what it is today, every pitch they throw increases the chance that an injury will occur.

The only difference between the Yankees and the Mets is that the Mets endured this hardship at the major league level while the Yankees are coping with it down below. But make no mistake, it’s still the same problem.

And the problem for the Yankees is only to grow as the season progresses. Because you send someone like a Chance Adams down so he can gain the experience he needs and kick the can down the road until you figure out what Michael Pineda and Luis Severino are going to give you.

And what do you get except a kick in the face and the possibility that Kaprielian will turn out to the Yankees version of Zack Wheeler, possibly missing two full years instead of one following an injury.

Injuries are part of the game, and all teams have to deal with them. Some teams and the Mets aren’t one of them, have a better track record in bringing pitchers successfully back from injuries. But what are you supposed to do when a young stud like Kaprielian tells you he’s ready and you have a hole to fill?

More from Yanks Go Yard

And it doesn’t help any, even though they mean well when veteran hurlers talk all the time about pitching through pain. Because, what does that mean? It’s like when your doctor asks you, on a scale of one to ten what is your pain level now?

Well, I don’t know. Tell me what scale I’m using. I don’t want to be a sissy and, by the way, can you define pain for me. So I say three as if I know.

At the same time, though, pitching with pain at this level is almost a requirement. Especially when you realize that pitching itself is diametrically opposed to a normal bodily function. And there is bound to be the pain when you ask your body to do something it was not built for.

Still, there appears to be some who have a lower tolerance for pain than others. Steven Matz, for example, seems to have a low tolerance for pain and that will plague him for the rest of his career. But at least he knows it, and his team does as well, reducing the chance of further injury by trying to pitch when he shouldn’t be out there.

Dr. James Andrews has made a career and a substantial living as a fixer of pitching injuries. But the real money and value will go to the person who can come up with a way of preventing these injuries in the first place.

Yankees Need A Mentor Like John Smoltz

John Smoltz believes that pitchers today are babied and that the arm is a muscle. And as such, it needs to be exercised freely and often. And further, that priming pitchers to go five innings before the bullpen takes over is the wrong thing to do, both physically and mentally for a pitcher.

And he’s not talking about bravado and pitching through pain. But he is most certainly talking about learning how to pitch with an emphasis on mechanics that reduces stress instead of adding it and finding an arm slot that fits the contour of your body.

These things all need to be taught. Preferably, the teaching gets done in the minor leagues. But so often now, kids are pushed through the minors at such a rapid pace there is no time for learning, only doing.

And for most of these kids, they’ve been doing quite well for themselves for quite a long time, and they do not see any need for learning. Their body has responded to anything they’ve asked of it, and they’ve enjoyed an excess of success at every level they’ve played at until the day comes when they hear that snap that sounds like a twig breaking off a tree.

And they think, what the hell was that? And then they look around them thinking, well, I guess I’ve really arrived now! I’m just like all the others with an appointment on the books with Dr. Andrews.

To avoid this scenario, the Yankees need to be insistent with their young pitchers that they be mindful of mechanics and less aware of the radar gun. And with that, the Yankees need to be hiring the best and the brightest talent available as pitching coaches, and they all need to be on the same page when it comes to relaying the organization’s mantra.

Even if it means hiring an assistant or two for each of their minor league teams at $70,000 each to teach at the minor league level.

Pitching injuries, as some would have you believe, are not inevitable. They can be prevented by constant care and some tough love that is combined with good teaching at all levels in the Yankees organization.

And hopefully, James Kaprielian is not the first domino to fall in a line that will parallel what happened across the way in Queens.