Donaldson, Loaisiga to the IL
by EJ Fagan
April 9, 2023
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When the Yankees sent down Johny Brito, they knew that the only way they would be able to call him back up to make yesterday's start would be if there were an injury. I don’t think they expected two.
Josh Donaldson heads to the injured list with a hamstring strain. That seemed pretty inevitable when we saw it pop running to first base. Aaron Boone indicated that it isn’t too bad of a strain, so we might see him in ten days.
Jonathan Loaisiga’s injury is much more serious, and a bit of a surprise. He inflammation in his elbow. Not good. I was already concerned about his plummeting strikeout rate, which continued through his first few appearances. Maybe the injury explains it? I don’t know.
To make matters worse, the Yankees moved Tommy Kahnle to the 60-day injured list to make room for Calhoun. He won’t be arriving to help the team until late May, if ever. The Yankees now have eleven players on the injured list: four starting pitchers, four relief pitchers and three hitters. Carlos Rodon and Luis Severino are starting to throw, but no one’s return is imminent.
What are the implications? Let’s take it one at a time.
The Yankees bullpen is in a bad place right now:
Brewer, Abreu and Cordero were all DFA candidates a few weeks ago, but they are going to pitch a lot of important innings for the Yankees going forward. Mike King has been hittable. Clay Holmes has been hittable. It’s too early to judge anyone, but the Yankees sure feel short two or three relief pitchers right now.
Is anyone from this group going to break out into a true high leverage relief pitcher? Ian Hamilton would be my bet. He looks great. We hear a lot about new pitches these days, but Hamilton’s “slambio” is the first one that really sticks out to my untrained eye. I think he could stick.
What about the other guys? I don’t have a lot of faith. I wish they had options. The Yankees have so little depth that they can’t afford to DFA them, but I’d bet on Matt Krook or Greg Weissert over any of them. Unless one of the three pitchers so poorly that they are comfortable losing them to waivers, I think this is the squad.
Losing Donaldson is big time addition by subtraction. Donaldson has been awful this season. His late Spring surge did not carry through to the regular season. He’s hitting .125/.176/.313 with an abysmal 35% strikeout rate. He might be ready to play in a week, but I wonder if the Yankees slow play his return a bit. DJ LeMahieu can handle 3rd for the time being.
I think its telling that the Yankees called up Willie Calhoun instead of Oswald Peraza to replace Donaldson. They don’t need an infielder, even with Peraza in the minors. They need someone to DH when Giancarlo Stanton plays the outfield. My bet is that Calhoun plays most games against right-handed batters for the foreseeable future. He’s probably a better hitter than Donaldson at this point in his career.
Where does this leave Oswald Peraza? He’s been splitting time between short and second base at Triple-A, but not third base. We’re not nearly deep enough in the season to talk about swapping him and Volpe, even as Volpe has struggled to hit. I don’t think we see him without an injury to LeMahieu or Torres.
The Yankees are in a Tough Spot
Here we go again. The Yankees did a pretty good job absorbing their first wave of injuries, but it feels like they might be at the point if not having a lot of replacement players. Loaisiga is a huge loss for an already-thin bullpen. Donaldson’s injury isn’t a big deal, but they are one more loss away from having to start subtracting from their lineup.
For now, the starting rotation is healing. The lineup is only really missing Harrison Bader, who should start working out for real soon. The bullpen is the area where the Yankees really feel weak. They need reinforcements, but none are coming. Matt Blake is going to earn his paycheck this month.