DETROIT — No matter what the rest of September and all of October bring for these Yankees, this already will go down as one of the nuttier seasons for a franchise not immune to nuttiness.
Thursday stands as a strong candidate for Top Five Crazy.
A getaway doubleheader in Motown resulted in three players getting away from the field, leaving this road trip early, to address new injuries.
Well, two of those injuries counted as new to the Yankees, the other new only to the public. Which means the Yankees had best be right on letting J.A. Happ pitch through his left biceps tendinitis.
1. Edwin Encarnacion left the seventh inning of Game 1 with what the Yankees called a strained left oblique. Aaron Boone nevertheless expressed hope the team wouldn’t lose him for an extended period (like, say, the duration of the schedule) even though an oblique sure can sideline someone for a while. Just ask Aaron Judge.
2. Following Game 1, the Yankees divulged that Happ, who started and lasted 4²/? innings, will join his fellow 36-year-old former Blue Jay Encarnacion in going to New York as the rest of the club proceeds to Toronto. Team physician Christopher Ahmad will examine the condition that has afflicted Happ for his last “several” starts, according to the southpaw, and that Happ convinced his bosses was manageable enough to avoid the injured list, or even just a skipped start. The plan all along, the Yankees emphasized, called for Happ to make this start and then head back home for a tune-up — possibly a cortisone shot, Happ acknowledged.
3. Gary Sanchez left Game 2 in the fourth inning with what the Yankees called left groin tightness. He got caught stealing second base in the third and caught the bottom of the inning before leaving to also head back to New York. “Hopefully it’s something that’s a minor thing,” Boone said.
4. For additional spice, Judge crashed into the right-field wall chasing down John Hicks’ fly ball, and Tommy Kahnle, who just returned from right wrist tendinitis, had to get some fingers checked after throwing a dugout tantrum, Boone said. The manager labeled both OK.
The Happ case could occur more than we realize, with the team and player simply hiding the injury as business goes forward. In this instance, though, with the probability Happ’s absence in Toronto would have been noted, the Yankees showed their hand.
“I definitely wanted to pitch, yeah,” Happ said on a conference call with reporters (he had already left the premises by the end of Game 1).
“We don’t think it’s significant, obviously,” Boone said. Happ said he pitched through this same injury in 2016, arguably the best season of his solid career, while with the Jays.
Ironically — or, less cynically, as a sign that Happ will be OK — the veteran has pitched his best baseball of the season during this stretch. By posting a 2.05 ERA in his last four starts, with Thursday’s the shortest of the quartet, Happ has pitched himself back into the postseason conversation.
We’ll find out soon enough whether Happ’s eagerness to pitch, and the Yankees’ accommodating that wish, proves costly or wise. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who expressed some regrets about the team’s handling of injuries (specifically Luis Severino’s) back in June, declined further comment Thursday when asked about the Happ decision. The sheer volume of never-ending injuries ensures that more questions will be coming about the Yankees’ medical and training protocols.
As for Encarnacion, even a short absence would heighten the ever-increasing need for Giancarlo Stanton (strained PCL in right knee) to return to action next week ready to help. And the team’s offense naturally takes a significant hit for however long Sanchez misses.
That these became secondary issues for the moment speaks to the nuttiness of this day. How much more of this can these Yankees withstand?