The normal focus heading into any game is who is in the starting lineup. But this year is anything but normal, especially for the Yankees, when it comes to starting lineups. Injuries have hit the Yankees so hard in the offseason, with a couple scares early in the season too, that their DL roster could be confused with a starting lineup. Since many Yankees stars will be out for Wednesday's game against the Indians (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and WatchESPN), it seemed appropriate to provide some quick updates on their collective road to recovery.
Curtis Granderson, OF (injured Feb. 24, due back mid-May): Even Granderson was surprised when the "bruise" from a J.A. Happ fastball in a spring exhibition game turned out to be a fracture. Granderson has remained focused on conditioning ever since so that once the healing in his arm permitted it, he would be able to get baseball-ready in short order. Manager Joe Girardi says Granderson could hit soft toss or off a tee as soon as this weekend, keeping him on track for a mid-May return.
Derek Jeter, SS (injured in October, no timetable for return): It almost feels as if once Jeter realized he could not make Opening Day, the reset button was hit on his return clock. Jeter was pushing to be back by the start of the season, but his still-healing 38-year-old ankle would not cooperate. It's hardly a failure -- except perhaps to the ultracompetitive, hardworking athlete that Jeter is -- that he could not get to game readiness by Opening Day; recovery from this type of surgery (plates and screws in the lower leg to restore ankle stability) takes months to heal and additional months to return to every-day playing form. Jeter is working out in Tampa, Fla., doing baseball drills and, most importantly, progressing his running from water to land. The team (wisely) will not hear of his return until he can play in minor league games on back-to-back days, something which is still a ways off. The Yankees are not being coy about a timetable; it is a stepwise process where the next level of activity is dictated by response to the previous level. Jeter is as day-to-day as they come, but based on what he is doing, it appears as if early May is in his sights.
Mark Teixeira, 1B (injured March 5, due back in May): Teixeira hopes he will avoid the fate of Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, who also suffered a partially torn tendon sheath, which ultimately required surgery. Teixeira's right wrist was immobilized after his injury in the hopes that the sheath would heal itself, and he says he did not experience any instability of the tendon itself -- something Bautista did feel, which led him to surgery. All reports of Teixeira's progress have been excellent so far. On April 1, he was permitted to remove the brace (other than for workouts), and he has been focusing on strengthening exercises for his wrist and forearm. He still has not been cleared to swing a bat, and doing so, especially from the left side -- the side he bats from primarily and also the way in which he was originally hurt -- will be the ultimate test. Even if the early swings are uneventful, the big challenge will be when he returns to hitting in a game situation, going all out on his swing repeatedly. Teixeira hopes he can return by the start of May, but there will be no rush. After all, if the sheath re-tears or he proves unable to function at the plate, he will find himself following in Bautista's footsteps into the operating room.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B (estimated back around All-Star break): There hasn't been much to report on Rodriguez because, well, he has remained mostly hidden from view. When he did emerge to meet the media on Opening Day, Rodriguez merely confirmed that he was dedicating himself to the rehab of his surgically repaired left hip. He was guarded about his progress, saying he was in "Stage 1" of his recovery. Based on the surgical procedure to address hip impingement along with a labral repair, it is reasonable to expect Rodriguez to be ready around the second half of the season. But until he is participating in baseball activities and approaching minor league games, it's too early to make any definitive claims.
Phil Hughes, SP (returned April 6): After a bulging disc in his back derailed Hughes' spring, the Yankees were just glad to have him back the first week in April, even if the outing was unspectacular. Perhaps they are happier that he appeared to suffer no physical setback and is in line to take the mound again Thursday.
Hiroki Kuroda, SP (no missed time): This is what you call dodging a bullet. Kuroda was hit by a line drive on the middle finger of his pitching hand, fortunately sustaining no break in the bone but a scare nonetheless. There was concern whether he would be able to make his subsequent start, but Kuroda pitched Monday, pain and all. At least the Yankees avoided sending yet another key player to the DL.
Michael Pineda, SP (surgery May 2012, due back June/July): Pineda's debut season with the Yankees went exactly the opposite of how everyone envisioned it and ended abruptly with him undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum. The rehab has been long and arduous, and Pineda has used the time to get in better physical shape, something he unquestionably needed to do. While there are never any guarantees as to how a pitcher will perform following shoulder surgery, recent signs of Pineda's recovery and his young age are encouraging. He has been throwing bullpen sessions, even incorporating breaking pitches in the past month. He still has a ways to go before he can definitively return to healthy status, but there is reason to be optimistic he will contribute in the second half.
Meanwhile, in the Indians training room ...
I certainly couldn't leave Cleveland completely out of the conversation. While the Indians can't compete with the Yankees when it comes to starters on the DL, they do have one injury concern.
Carlos Santana, C (DTD): Santana bruised his left thumb Monday when he absorbed a fastball from Chris Perez. X-rays came back negative, but given that the impact was such that even Santana thought he broke it initially, don't be surprised if he's out for a few days.