The New York Yankees have been dogged by injuries all season, with 29 players landing on the injured list, surpassing the previous major league record of 28, set by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016. While there is no pride in setting such a record, the Yankees not only have managed to run away and hide in the AL East, pretty much locking up their first division title since 2012, but also are on pace to win 105 games.
Some of those injured Yankees stars are on the mend and are in a race against the clock in hopes of being fully recovered in time to contribute this season. Things will get more interesting as the Yankees face a roster crunch heading into October.
Here's a look at the status of some of the Bombers' biggest names on the IL and what they might be able to contribute going forward.
Injury: On the 60-day IL with right-shoulder rotator cuff inflammation (since March 25); was sidelined with a Grade 2 lat strain that set him back in his rehab
2019 stats: Has not pitched
Expected return date: Thursday
What the Yankees are saying: Severino will have a third rehab start in Double-A Trenton on Wednesday. If everything goes well, he's expected to rejoin the Yankees on their current 10-game road trip. The team anticipates that Severino will throw 60-plus pitches and then make his first start in the bigs this year when the team returns to the Bronx for its final homestand of the regular season.
What Severino is saying: "If I feel good, I think I'm ready to pitch in games [in the majors]. I just want to help my team. If they need me in the bullpen, if they need me to start, I'm here. I just want to help."
What you can expect: Former major leaguer Carlos Beltran, who is now a special assistant to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and was at Severino's last rehab start in Triple-A, told ESPN that Severino was healthy and looked great, with good speed on his fastball, which scouts present at the game said sat between 95 mph and 97 mph. With a big lead atop the AL East, the Yankees hope to use the last two weeks of the season to build Severino's arm strength, which should allow him to be part of the postseason roster. Manager Aaron Boone has said that Severino is currently undergoing the equivalent of spring training, and as such, he should have enough innings under his belt to be a solid postseason contributor, barring any setbacks. Severino's most recent major league start was in Game 3 of the 2018 American League Division Series, when he gave up six runs in three innings of a 16-1 loss to the Red Sox.
Injury: On the 10-day IL with right-knee inflammation (since Aug. 31)
2019 stats: 5-8, 4.93 ERA, 0.3 WAR in 20 starts
Expected return date: Wednesday
What the Yankees are saying: Boone announced Sunday that Sabathia will be activated Wednesday to start the second game of a three-game set against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Yankees will use Sabathia in a sort of "opener" role, with Domingo German coming in as a reliever. The Yankees are being careful with German and managing his total innings, given that he has 140⅔ innings pitched this season after logging 94 last year. Sabathia has not pitched more than 4⅓ innings in an outing since July 16.
What Sabathia is saying: After throwing a bullpen session Friday, Sabathia said everything went well, and he declared he was ready for the next step. "Hopefully I can just get enough rest where [my knee will] calm down and I'm able to get back out there and throw 90 to 100 pitches," he said.
What you can expect: Sabathia has a chronic condition in his surgically repaired knee, and he said he will likely get a knee replacement after he retires at the end of this season. The 39-year-old left-hander continues to get his knee drained and receive treatment and cortisone shots in order to remain a viable starter option for the Yankees as they continue their bid for the best record in the American League. Sabathia will certainly be a question in terms of the playoffs. If he's healthy, it would be tough for the Yankees to leave him off the postseason roster, given that he's one of the most vocal leaders, and Boone has repeatedly stressed how his presence impacts the Yankees clubhouse -- in addition to this being Sabathia's final season. But putting aside the intangibles, given Sabathia's below-average performance on the mound this season, the Yankees might be better served by carrying a healthy, younger arm.
Injury: On the 60-day IL with a right-knee sprain (since June 26); had strained left biceps (March 31), strained shoulder and strained calf during his rehabilitation before coming off the IL on June 18
2019 stats: 1 HR, 7 RBIs, .290 AVG, 0.3 WAR in nine games
Expected return date: Sept. 17
What the Yankees are saying: Stanton has been doing baseball activities such as outfield agility drills and running the bases, in addition to having at-bats in simulated games last week at Yankee Stadium and most recently at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa. The team expects Stanton to ramp up his rehab this week and hopes he can be activated before the season ends. "It's just building up and getting to a point where he can play in a game as far as passing everything from all of his running protocols," Boone said. General manager Brian Cashman, who originally targeted August for Stanton's return, expressed a clear level of uncertainty regarding his status: "We do expect him at some point, but he's also coming back from a pretty serious injury that takes time to heal. We'll just keep waiting on it and hope that at some point he becomes a legitimate option for us."
What Stanton is saying: Stanton has said he wanted to take "a few weeks" of at-bats before the month of October: "Once I start moving around, [I'll] just see how it bounces back. But I do want to have a few weeks of at-bats before October, for sure. I want to be out there for a couple weeks, just the game routine and having whatever amount of at-bats I can."
What you can expect: Stanton might be activated off the IL for the last two weeks of the season, which would give him enough at-bats to be considered for a postseason roster spot. But that is only if he doesn't suffer any more setbacks, which seems to be a big "if" with him. The Yankees have not missed Stanton's bat this season, but he was the National League MVP two years ago and is still regarded as one of the best power hitters in baseball. If he is healthy, he will be a playoff weapon for the Yankees. The decision will depend on whether he gets enough at-bats before the playoffs, and that remains to be seen.
Injury: On the 60-day IL with right-shoulder impingement (since March 25); was sidelined with a lat strain during his rehab
2019 stats: Has not pitched
Expected return date: Unknown
What the Yankees are saying: Betances, like Severino, pitched a rehab outing Friday with the Yankees' Double-A affiliate in Trenton. Betances threw 19 pitches (11 strikes), and even though his fastball was around 93-94 mph, a low figure for him, the Yankees saw this as a sign that he's on track to return this season. "Another positive step for him overall," Boone said. "I thought he threw some good breaking balls, threw some good fastballs in there. Was a little erratic with a couple of things ... and then even talking to him, I think he felt good about it, and now you're just dealing with a little bit of rust, kind of the early outings of spring training."
What Betances is saying: After throwing to hitters in a simulated game Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, Betances said he believed he could get major league hitters out with his stuff, and he was encouraged with the way he was throwing and pounding the strike zone. "Felt the best I've thrown so far," he said. "Definitely encouraged with the way I threw today. The breaking ball was good -- that's the most I've thrown it for strikes -- and my fastball's good. I threw a lot of strikes, so that's all I care about."
What you can expect: A scout at Betances' Trenton rehab outing said the right-hander looked healthy but "erratic," which means he will need to iron out the kinks before the Yankees decide on a return date. Betances continues to say he's fully healthy, and the Yankees would prefer to give him at least two more rehab outings in the minors, but with the minor league season winding down, his opportunities will be limited. The Trenton Thunder are getting ready to face the Bowie Baysox in the best-of-five Eastern League championship series, which starts Wednesday, and both Severino and Betances are slated to pitch. After that game, Betances should have one more rehab outing in the minors. Then he'll likely be called up for his first major league action of the season. He most recently pitched in the majors in Game 4 of the 2018 ALDS, when he went 1⅓ innings in relief, giving up one hit and striking out three in the Yankees' 4-3 loss to the Red Sox.
Injury: On the 10-day IL with a right flexor strain (since Aug. 4)
2019 stats: 12 HRs, 36 RBIs, .235 average, 1.3 WAR in 59 games
Expected return date: Unknown
What the Yankees are saying: Hicks had yet another setback in his rehab from a flexor strain, near his right elbow, which has not allowed him to ramp up his throwing. "He's slowed down," Boone said. "He's not feeling quite right. We'll see how the next several days unfold. But as of right now, he hasn't been able to advance." Hicks had an MRI that showed no ligament damage, but Boone admitted it's possible Hicks' season is over.
What Hicks is saying: When Hicks was cleared to start throwing on Aug. 30, he said he "felt really good," even though his arm felt "weird."
What you can expect: With 18 games remaining this season, it is unlikely Hicks will have enough time to mount a comeback. The 29-year-old has been injury-prone throughout his career, including missing the start of this season with a back injury that kept him sidelined until May 15. Plus, even when Hicks has been in the lineup this season, he hasn't been productive. The Yankees are down to three healthy outfielders -- Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier -- with Mike Tauchman on the shelf with a Grade 2 calf strain and out 6-8 weeks after he suffered tightness in his right calf on Sunday. Cameron Maybin continues to deal with a left wrist injury that has kept him out of the lineup since Aug. 31, though he did come in for Tauchman on Sunday.