UTK: The Yankees Infield Is Broken with Injuries to Teixeira, Roberts and Jeter

Will Carroll@injuryexpertSports Injuries Lead WriterApril 16, 2014

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter grimaces after being hit in the elbow with a pitch in the sixth inning against the New York Mets as he walks with assistant coach Steve Donahue at Shea Stadium in New York Saturday, May21, 2005.  (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Right now, the MVP of the Yankees is not a player, but Steve Donahue. The longtime Yankees athletic trainer has been holding the team together with white tape and long hours, but the team is falling apart due to its very construction. If anyone thought a team with an aging Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts was going to stay healthy all season, I have a bridge to sell them.

Jeter has shown himself to be reasonably healthy, but there's obviously concerns about how he's going to hold up. While the ankle has limited him in the field and on the bases, there's the thought that the Yankees are slowly testing him while not overexposing him. Holding him on in Toronto is one thing, but there's a distinct chance that the team is at the point where they're reluctant to play him in back-to-back games, let alone day after night.

The Yankees are letting Jeter have his victory lap, but with a lack of backups, I have a hard time believing that this was the plan. Losing Brendan Ryan certainly hurt the infield more than you'd think, but if the Yankees have to disguise Jeter all season, they'll essentially be playing a man down all year.

The situation is the same with Brian Roberts. He hasn't been healthy in quite a while, and expecting him to suddenly go 120 games is folly. He's a cheap lottery ticket, and finding a backup is as easy as figuring out how to spell "Yangervis." Roberts' back spasms aren't unexpected; it was always going to be something. The question now is whether the possible production is worth the effort necessary to keep him on the field given all the other work Donahue is going to need to be doing.

The expected problem for Mark Teixeira—the wrist—is still a problem, but the proximal issue is a simple hamstring strain. He's on track to come back from it at the minimum, having progressed normally with a very conservative push to the disabled list. The question now is whether they'll use a rehab assignment to try to figure out whether his power is going to come back. 

An injury to Francisco Cervelli, their light-hitting backup catcher, shouldn't create a big problem, but a minor hamstring strain has pushed him to the 60-day DL, per NJ.com. Don't take this as an indication of severity, but a roster-based necessity to shift an injury-plagued 25- and 40-man roster around. Cervelli didn't get much in the way of power or health from his work with Biogenesis, but everyone will continue to ignore that. In the meantime, John Ryan Murphy will be the backup but could be exposed if Brian McCann needs time off after taking a nasty foul tip off his hand, as noted by The New York Times.

The Yankees are juggling, but the worry has to be that they're facing a "death spiral." With only so many man-hours on the medical staff, will they be able to handle all the things they have to do and keep up the preventive work they need to keep the now-healthy out of the training room? It's a danger we've seen over and over, most notably a few years ago with the New York Mets.

It would be easy to fix. Simply "call up" a minor league trainer the way they would a player. No one else has done this, so it's hard to expect the Yankees will do so. 

The medical staff does have one major win, as Michael Pineda has looked solid after missing a year to shoulder surgery. It's a difficult one to come back from, as detailed in this B/R article, but the early signs are positive for Pineda. If he can recover from start to start, he's a big plus for the team. Watch to make sure he's making all his side work. Skipping that might be an indication of future issues and would make him a "sell high" immediately.