Yankees' forgotten infield reinforcement starts long road back to MLB

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

Just when it seemed like the 2024 Yankees were actually going to start their season with a bench that was intentionally assembled (rather than one filled with spare parts), the team's backups started dropping like flies.

Sometimes, that works out for the best (SEE: The 2023-24 New York Knicks). Sometimes, you end up with Taylor Trammell and Kevin Smith briefly.

Instead of running with a backup catcher, Trent Grisham and Oswald Peraza, the Yankees were forced to scrap and claw once Peraza was shut down for 6-to-8 weeks this spring. The injury led directly to a Jon Berti trade that probably should've happened regardless of Peraza's health status. Naturally, he, too, got injured before making a significant impact (and has since returned).

About eight weeks following Peraza's initial diagnosis, the long-forgotten former top infield prospect has officially begun the climb back to the bigs. He'll start a rehab assignment with Single-A Tampa on Tuesday, and due to the nature of his recovery, said assignment will probably stretch as long as is legally allowed. If all checks out well, Jahmai Jones' spot will be there for the taking when he recovers.

Yankees' Oswald Peraza begins rehab assignment with Tampa Tarpons

Of course, the Yankees might just demote Peraza at the end of his rehab assignment anyway; the former top-100 prospect didn't exactly distinguish himself in 2023 (49 OPS+ with a .191 average will undo a good deal of defensive efficiency) and still has some work to do before being considered an above-average offensive option.

At the beginning of camp, it seemed foretold that Peraza would swipe one of the Yankees' final bench spots, even if that represented the classic maneuver of giving a Quad-A player a roster spot rather than developing him (with everyday reps) below the surface.

It's quite possible the Yankees have already done Peraza's development dirty, but at the very least, his road to recovery -- and proving the doubters wrong -- begins anew on Tuesday.