The disabled list in Major League Baseball is a concept that has transcended time. It is where teams place injured players while they recover.
Prior to the start of the 2019 season, the name was changed to the injured list. According to ESPN.com, Dan Halem, deputy commissioner of the league, said the change was made at the suggestion of advocacy groups for the disabled, including the Link20: Act Up for Inclusion network.
It does not take a lot of sources to figure out why the name change took place. These days, the word disabled has a different connotation than it used to have.
Before the season began, starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who missed all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, was placed on the list because he was still recovering. I feel especially bad for him because he pitched so well as a starting rotation member during the unexpected 2017 playoff run. He is doomed to miss most of 2019 after being placed on the 60-day injured list on March 23.
But while Montgomery’s injury hurts the Yankee rotation, it is Luis Severino’s that may end up biting the most. Severino is another talented young pitcher who broke out in 2017, repeated his success in 2018, and established himself as the ace of the staff. In February he signed a four-year, $40-million contract extension. Many consider him a future Cy Young contender.
On March 5, when warming up to start a spring training game, Severino felt a twinge of pain in his right arm, and an MRI found that he had rotator cuff inflammation. He was expecting to come back in the days preceding the season’s start when this setback occurred. He is listed on the IL with right shoulder rotator cuff inflammation and a Grade 2 lat strain.
On Saturday, the Yankees announced that they did not anticipate seeing him back before the All- Star Game.
Starting pitcher James Paxton was acquired over the 2018-2019 offseason from the Seattle Mariners. He landed on the IL on May 4, and the Yankees announced that he would miss three weeks minimum. To that point, in seven games and starts, he went 3-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 37 and 2/3 innings pitched.
And yet another notable pitcher, reliever Dellin Betances, hit the list when the season started. He is listed with right shoulder impingement and has yet to return. His role is normally to pitch the eighth inning before Aroldis Chapman comes in for the save opportunity.
The team was forced to place its starting center fielder, Aaron Hicks, on the injured list on the season’s first day, March 28, with a left lower back strain. Hicks had just signed a contract extension for seven years and $70 million a few mere days before. He has played well and has been consistent since becoming the main stay in center field since 2016. As of May 6, he was yet to return.
Elsewhere in the Yankees outfield, arguably one of the current best in the league, left fielder Giancarlo Stanton, went down on April 1 with a left bicep strain. Considering his biceps are some of the biggest I have seen in the league, it was not surprising to many.
But wait. Did you think at least one of the Opening Day outfielders would be healthy for more than a month? Naturally, no. All-Star Aaron Judge went on the injured list on April 21 with a left oblique strain. He is expected to miss about two months.
On April 25, one of the replacement men in the outfield, Clint Frazier, went down due to a left ankle strain. He returned May 4 with still a chance to make some noise before the stars return.
And then there’s the infield, although it seems we have covered enough individual injuries to last the whole season already.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius missed the season’s start due to recovery from Tommy John surgery after injuring his elbow in last year’s American League Division Series. As of May 6, he has avoided setbacks and may return before June.
The Yankees suffered another huge blow when third baseman Miguel Andujar went on the IL on April 1, the same day as Stanton. He was listed with a right-shoulder strain.
If you thought that was it, there's more. Troy Tulowitzki, who has perhaps one of the most notable players to spend more time inactive due to injury over the last number of years, injured his left calf and went on the IL on April 4. Tulowitzki has spent so much time inactive, that his son, age 5, had never seen his father play before this past Opening Day. When he hit a single, the infielder cried. His parade lasted approximately a week before he got hurt again.
Second baseman Gleyber Torres shifted to shortstop after Gregorius went down. He has been there since.
To fill the void at third base, the Yankees called up Gio Urshella from AAA-Scranton, who has done so well, amazingly, that he is considered by some as deserving a full-time job. As of May 6, He was batting .338, with 6 RBI, surpassing expectations.
Elsewhere, one of the first basemen, Greg Bird, went on the ten-day IL with a left plantar fascia tear on April 16. He is yet to return as of May 6.
Catcher Gary Sanchez went on the ten-day IL on April 12 with a left calf strain. He, along with Andujar, as of May 6, are the only players to return to the lineup. He came back on April 24.
If you have been keeping score, you would have noted that six out of the eight starting position players were at one point injured, or still are as of May 6.
The team has been carried, in large part, by first baseman Luke Voit, who emerged in 2018 as a staple at first base the likes of which the Yankees have arguably not seen in years. The veteran outfielder Brett Gardner has provided a jolt. He must have started the year believing he would be riding the bench and providing assistance whenever one of the stars needed a day off. Even Sanchez, although missing time, has had some clutch hits.
Maybe the biggest surprise has been the play of second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who has filled in for the shortstop playing Torres. LeMahieu has batted .315, surpassing expectations, highly contrary to some of the utility middle infielders that the Yankees have seen pass through their tunnels in the last six years, (Jayson Nix, anyone?).
The bullpen is one of the Yankees strengths at full potential. Even without Betances, it has been good enough, with Chapman going 12 and two thirds innings pitched, striking out 18 and walking three batters, succeeding with seven saves out of eight opportunities.
If you feel confused, overwhelmed and disoriented after reading through this list, you are not alone, at least among the masses of Yankee fans. You are certainly not alone among fans from other teams, astounded at how well the Yankees have played, regardless of the hurdles they have had to jump through.
As of May 6, the Yankees are 19-14, just two games out of first place, second to the Tampa Bay Rays. Any expert would have gladly told you that would be impossible to do after six of eight starting position players got hurt within the first six weeks of the season.
The team has been well, which only begs the question as to how it will play once half way back to its original potential; not mention its full potential. Time will tell.