To say the depth of the New York Yankees bullpen is being tested would be a massive understatement. Just weeks after losing Mariano Rivera to a season ending knee injury, the Yankees must endure an injury to set-up man turned closer David Robertson for a minimum of 15 days – the least amount of time an injured player must stay on the DL. The Yankees placed Robertson on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique prior to yesterday’s game at Baltimore.
Robertson and the Yankees don’t seem to think it’s too severe and are encouraged that the injury was caught early without it getting worse but as manager Joe Girardi pointed out, oblique injures can be tricky.
“We don’t think it’s too severe but it’s hard to tell, obliques can be tricky. We expect him not to pick up a baseball for probably seven to 10 days and then we’ll see where we are after that.” – Joe Girardi
One would think that the closers job would fall on the shoulder of Rafael Soriano who led the American League with 45 saves in 2010 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays before joining the Yankees the following season. Soriano was designed to be the Yankees primary 7th inning reliever coming into the season but with the injures to Rivera–and now Robertson, Soriano is the man in the ninth. A telling sign of just how much the Yankees bullpen depth is being tested.
“We are testing our depth and time’s going to tell if we can sustain what we’re doing, They’ve done a good job so far. You look at the job those guys have done there, they’ve been really, really good. I think the distance from your starters becomes maybe a little more important now.” - Joe Girardi
Now that Soriano is the closer – at least until – Robertson is healthy, does he feel he needs to alter his thinking or his approach?
“You know, to me, I don’t think nothing changed, sometimes, something happens like that and you got to keep going, because we lost Mariano first and the bullpen tried to do whatever it had to do. Now, with two guys down, it’s not going to be easy for us. We’re trying to be together, the bullpen and the team, and win.” - Rafael Soriano
The Yankees have no choice but to keep going and they surely will. Things may get better before too much longer because injured relievers Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma are both recovering from Tommy John surgery and could factor in the bullpen mix sometime over the course of the second half of the season. Aardsma told me via Twitter that he’s “hoping for a July return”. Chamberlain’s return date is a bit more uncertain due to the ankle injury he sustained in late March playing with his son on a trampoline. Chamberlain has said that he fully expects to pitch for the Yankees in 2012 and the Yankees are optimistic as well. Seven weeks have passed since the incident occurred, and he is already walking without a boot. To protect his ankle while moving around, he now uses a basketball ankle brace. He and the Yankees believe he is ahead of schedule but insists they aren’t going to rush anything.
For now, the Yankees will have to pick up the pieces and move forward and hope that no other troops in the bullpen take a hit due to injury.