|Torre kindly offers golf balls to the teams that won't be around in October.
With Matsui lighting up the minors and Sheffield also on the road to recovery, Mariano Rivera was understandably concerned that the Yankees wouldn’t have enough injured players anymore. Always reliable, Mo stepped up to the task and strained his pitching elbow, ensuring that the Yanks will be without him for a week or so. Heaven forbid the Yankees have a healthy, complete lineup for the first time since April!
Joking aside, Mariano’s right elbow is mildly strained, but it doesn’t appear to be anything that a few days of rest can’t fix. With the Yanks up 9 games in the AL East, there is no need to push Mo (right, busting the dance move that is likely to blame for the elbow trouble) to pitch when he’s not feeling tip-top; both Torre and Mariano are wise enough to know that a healthy Mo is critical if they want to get past the first round of the playoffs this year (lucky for the Yanks, the Angels will most likely not be playing much baseball outside of their own backyards come October). The rest of the bullpen has been picking up the slack for Mo, and while no one can compete with Mariano’s overpowering presence, Ron Villone and especially Scott Proctor have been irrefutable blue-ribbon workhorses this year for the Yanks and even ol’ Farny has been better of late. Dotel hasn’t been quite as exciting as I had hoped, but he threw scoreless innings in both of the last 2 games he appeared in and he is still recovering from the TJ surgery so my hopes for him are not all lost. Brian Bruney, who was scratched by Arizona and subsequently picked up by the Yanks earlier this season, has also been getting some playing time in Mariano’s absence and he just might have staying power: his ERA is 1.08 after 8 bullpen appearances.
As I mentioned above, Matsui and Sheff are both on the mend from their wrist surgeries (left: this is what you automatically look like when you break your wrist) and Matsui is slated to return next week! Rather than risk another dive-and-break injury in the outfield, Torre plans to use Matsui strictly as a DH for the rest of the season. When Sheff, whose return date still hasn’t been announced, returns to the show, he’ll most likely be splitting first base duty with Giambi. Where this leaves Craig Wilson, who has been playing first when Giambi is the DH, and dear Bernie is uncertain. “Out in the cold” is probably the answer for Wilson, but my guess is that Torre will continue to use Bernie several times each week either in the field to give Damon or Abreu a rest or as a late-inning pinch-hitter.
With Boston essentially rolling over and calling it a day and just 24 games left to play, the Yanks are very nearly a lock for a playoff spot. Even without Matsui and Sheffield the Yankees have been playing better than they have since 2000; with those two joining the lineup by the time the post-season begins I’d be very nervous if I were a Tigers, Oakland, Chicago or Twins fan…
Labels: injuries, post-season