As spring training begins to gain a head of steam and players continue to work toward getting into baseball shape, injuries also begin to pile up.
It happens to every team in the sport at one point or another, but injuries, both major and minor, are as much a part of the game as pitching and hitting. It was the Yankees turn to be bitten by the injury bug on Tuesday night, as Nick Swisher was forced to leave a game against the Pirates after his third inning at-bat.
The injury is to Swisher's groin, the second such injury he's had in the last two weeks. Any injury, no matter how small, can easily turn into something that can cause a player to lose significant amounts of time. Swisher was reportedly feeling much better today, but if this injury lingers, the Yankees would probably be wise to let their right fielder rest as long as possible.
Swisher is a good defensive player, who's good eye and pop really help expand the Yankees' lineup. If he were to miss time, the Bombers more than likely will survive, but still, finding a quality replacement could be the difference between winning the toughest division in baseball or finishing third.
The Yankees do have options to replace Swisher already on their roster in the form of Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez. Neither player is anywhere near what they were in their prime, but both guys can still contribute at the major league level, especially in a strong lineup like that of the Yankees. Jones, once considered one of the best defensive center fielders in the game is still the better defensive player, but Ibanez has been the better hitter in recent years, and has most recently been an everyday player.
The two could form a very capable left/right platoon. That move would work, sure, but it would also weaken Joe Girardi's bench. The Yankees' seemingly endless financial resources means they are always in play to pick up a free agent to fill a void on their team, even this close to the start of the season.
There are still some solid outfield options available. A reunion with Johnny Damon, who played in the Bronx from 2006-'09 is still available and is coming off a very solid 2011 season. He's approaching 3,000 hits and still wants to play, so he probably can be had for a reasonable price. Damon is a defensive liability and his arm is terrible, so he may not be a great fit to play right field, but his offensive numbers could be as close to Swisher's as any other option New York may be staring at.
The Yankees could also bring a up a prospect like Mason Williams to the big club and let him take his knocks at the Major League level. In a perfect world, this would be the choice, as the Yankees have plenty of great veteran leaders that could teach a youngster like Williams a thing or two. Unfortunately, this isn't a perfect world. In reality, the Yankees are built to win today, and while Williams is a top-10 prospect in the organization, he's surely not ready to help the Yankees win the toughest division in baseball, let alone a title.
Not to mention, after recently mishandling Joba Chamberlain's development, Yankees brass will certainly not want to take a chance stunting another young player's development. It sounds like Swisher will be fine with a little a rest, but the Yankees have plenty of options in the event that he is out for an extended period of time. None of the options are ideal, but none should really derail the Yankees quest for a 28th title.
It will be interesting to see what develops.