September baseball has arrived, and with it comes meaningful games for playoff-hopefuls. Divisions are up for grabs and wild card races are heating up. The simple addition of one player to a contender this week could spell victory in the long run.
The final month of the MLB's regular season allows teams to expand their rosters to 40 players through minor-league call-ups or, more importantly, getting healthy starters back from injury.
The New York Yankees are forced to go with the former as they try to climb back up the American League East standings—they sit 1.5 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays heading into Wednesday's series finale with the Boston Red Sox.
New York will be without All-Star first baseman Mark Teixeira for another several weeks, the club announced Tuesday. A shin bruise that's kept the 35-year-old mostly out of the lineup since Aug. 17 is apparently more significant than the Yankees originally thought.
"His bone bruise has not healed at all," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, per Newsday. "He's going to be down for clearly an extended period of time."
So, in the homestretch of the season, the Yankees will be without their best offensive player. Teixeira is hitting .255/.357/.548 with 31 home runs and 79 RBI this season, and his 148 OPS+ ranks fifth in the AL.
New York has to now rely heavily on Greg Bird, who is playing first base in Teixeira's stead. The power-hitting prospect exploded for a 1.091 OPS and two home runs in his first five games in pinstripes, but he is struggling of late. His last seven contests have seen no homers, seven strikeouts and a .217 batting average.
The Yankees called up prospect Rob Refsnyder from the minors on Monday to presumably challenge Stephen Drew for the starting second base job.
Ryan Hatch of NJ.com says Refsnyder won't start right out of the gate but will get his fair shot this month.
Because the 24-year-old Refsnyder hits right-handed (and hits pretty well), he will likely face lefties either in pinch-hitting roles or will start games over Brendan Ryan (Drew's quasi platoon partner) when manager Joe Giardi sees fit.
The knock on Refsnyder is he can't field second base all that well. But they need him to learn the position at the big league level to either play it for them, or so they can show other teams he can, to trade him.
He'll likely play later in games after pinch-hits and/or when the score is out of hand, one way or another. And if the Yankees, for some reason, totally fall apart and are eliminated, perhaps his playing time increases for these very reasons.
Refsnyder hasn't seen the field since being called up, but his services could be required in a rubber match with the Red Sox on Wednesday.
The Blue Jays also made a key roster move when they called up outfielder Dalton Pompey this week.
Pompey entered Tuesday's game as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning, promptly stole second and third and scored on a Kevin Pillar sacrifice fly to give the Blue Jays a 3-2 lead. The speedster proved to be a difference-maker in a 5-3, 10-inning Blue Jays victory.
The 21-year-old is looking to make his case this month as Toronto's fourth outfielder heading into the postseason—a few starts in center field over the next couple weeks could help him earn the spot.
But Pompey's role as a pinch-runner off the bench should come in handy for the Blue Jays in the playoffs. Think Terrance Gore or Jarrod Dyson of last year's Kansas City Royals or Dave Roberts of the 2004 Red Sox.
Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star offers another comparison.
Dalton Pompey all Rickey Hendersoning— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) September 2, 2015
A late-game stolen base to get in scoring position could mean the difference between a playoff victory or a plane flight home. Pompey brings that excitement and energy to a team desperately in need of speed off the bench, as Toronto's Sportsnet points out.
Dalton Pompey is the first #BlueJays pinch-runner to steal a base this season (2 bases as this is being tweeted).— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) September 2, 2015
According to Rangers manager Jeff Banister, Hamilton will come off the bench to start out.
#Rangers Banister on Josh Hamilton's use: "Right now it's a bench player, pinch hitter, guy we can use in high leverage situations."— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) September 2, 2015
Gallo hit just .218/.306/.448 with five homers in 25 games in the majors earlier this season.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that Gallo will serve as another left-handed bat off the bench for the Rangers in the homestretch:
Gallo would likely only see time as a pinch hitter for the forseeable future, with Will Venable playing in left field against right-handers, Adrian Beltre healthy at third base and Hamilton potentially getting closer to playing.
Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that although Holliday took batting practice without an issue Tuesday, the 35-year-old isn't close to running at full strength yet as the Cardinals hold off on activating him.
Holliday, who's been on the disabled list since late July with a second right quadriceps strain, told Hummel he will be playing by October.
"When I come back, I’ll be ready to play, or be full-out," Holliday told Hummel. "I don’t want any hesitation on the bases or anything like that."
The Chicago Cubs, the Cards' NL Central rival, now have to deal with a recent injury of their own.
Star outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber was scratched from Wednesday's lineup with "right rib soreness."
Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports the 22-year-old rookie will undergo a precautionary MRI on his ribs. The Cubs face the Cincinnati Reds in a series finale rubber match Wednesday with Chris Coghlan filling in at left-field.
If Schwarber misses significant time, the Cubs will be forced to make a decision at second base—Coghlan has started consistently there of late.
The job would presumably be up for grabs between Starlin Castro and the recently called-up Javier Baez.
Baez had a .328/.391/.526 slash line with 13 home runs and 62 RBI in 74 games in the minors this season before being recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday.
The infielder started at second on Tuesday for the Cubs, going 0-for-4 in his 2015 debut. Baez could supplant Castro at second this month and into the postseason at manager Joe Maddon's discretion.
Dan is a featured columnist in B/R's Advanced Program in Sports Media. You can follow him on Twitter.