The Yankees injury toll so far this season hasn’t been a killer. But one injury could turn out to have career threatening effects. And that’s the one that concerns Brian Cashman the most.
When Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman, tells the New York Daily News that he is “very concerned about the fact that this has gone on since last April.”, he’s speaking not about Greg Bird, but his highly touted starting pitcher, James Kaprielian.
Bird, Cashman says, is “just somebody that’s beat up,” adding that he hopes it stays that way. Cashman also knows that injuries to position players, nine times out of ten, only mean missing a certain amount of time, seldom falling into the career threatening category.
Gary Sanchez hurts his wrist, waits it out, it heals, and he returns to the lineup as good as ever. And the same was true for Didi Gregorius who suffered his injury playing in the WBC. For both players, the Yankees, consulting with their doctors, laid out a timetable for rest and then rehab that was adhered to almost to the very day of their return to the team.
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With pitchers, though, it’s an entirely different matter. And maybe there’s a tinge of guilt on the part of Cashman when it comes to Kaprielian. Because you’ll recall those fateful days during Spring Training when I was writing columns with headlines like “Kaprielian like a racehorse biting at the bit”.
At first, the Yankees were adamant that he would not pitch until team doctors gave the right-hander a clean bill of health. Then, with Kaprielian yelling in the background, they were hesitant. And then, finally, they gave in letting him pitch and voila, there’s a season-ending injury that might require a second surgery on the same elbow.
Pitchers are an odd breed in baseball. Tommy John had his now famous surgery, and he comes back to pitch until he’s 46 years old. While on the other hand, there’s someone like former Chicago Cubs fireballer, Mark Prior, who can only tell Sports Illustrated ten years after he was forced to retire from baseball due to injuries that he “has no regrets and no one to blame.”
And across town, the New York Mets medical bills continue to keep doctors busy and making money with pitcher after pitcher going down with this or that injury. And while the Mets may have an internal problem with regards to how they handle injuries in general, the fact is that Steven Matz has yet to throw a pitch this season, Noah Syndergaard is probably lost for the season, and Matt Harvey probably wishes he were lost for the season.
So far, the Yankees have been lucky regarding injuries to their young pitchers. But they are also being mindful of maintaining control of their property.
Injuries like the one suffered by Kaprielian take a toll, and not just physically on an athlete. For instance, what do suppose Kaprielian’s day is going to be like today, May 20, 2017? He can run to his heart’s delight to keep in shape. And he can twirl a baseball in his hand all day long. But he can’t pitch a baseball, the only thing he’s wanted to do since Little League. Sorry, it’s doctor’s orders.
So Brian Cashman has every reason to be concerned about James Kaprielian. And he probably doesn’t even want to think about Kaprielian’s possible return next spring when the same drama will be played out with his young stud rearing back on his hind legs, announcing to Yankeeland, “I’m ready, put me in, coach.”
So far, the Yankees have been lucky regarding injuries to their young pitchers. But they have also, with the exception of Kaprielian, been mindful of maintaining control of their property. Jordan Montgomery is building up innings. Same with Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield in the minors.
These young pitchers know they have a future in the big leagues and they want to get it going yesterday.
Soon, the Yankees will be facing their most crucial question of this young season. Do they stand pat or go for their 28th World Championship via trades?
It’s Cashman’s job, though, to ensure that future comes to fruition. To be sure, he has his work cut out for himself.