Injuries Shape Final Yankees Roster Ahead of Opening DayMarch 24, 2019
TAMPA, Fla. — Injuries paved the way for unexpected players to make the Yankees’ season-opening roster, which was decided on Sunday.
Although most of the decisions were not surprising, Manager Aaron Boone at the very least provided some clarity as to how the team will look in the early going.
FIRST BASE Once locked in a battle for the starting job, Luke Voit and Greg Bird will both be on the team because of a lingering back injury to center fielder Aaron Hicks, who has not played in more than three weeks. On any given day that Voit or Bird plays first base, the other could be the designated hitter.
INFIELD/OUTFIELD Brett Gardner will be in center field, with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton on each side. Aside from first base, the infield will be second baseman Gleyber Torres, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and third baseman Miguel Andujar — with Gary Sanchez at catcher.
BENCH The reserves are expected to include catcher Austin Romine, infielder D. J. LeMahieu and the recently arrived outfielder Mike Tauchman. Tyler Wade, primarily an infielder who can also play the outfield, will begin the season at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — a move that he told reporters “blindsided” him given how well he performed this spring and what positions he was asked to play.
On Saturday, the Yankees traded the prospect Phillip Diehl for Tauchman, 28, a left-handed hitter who can play all three outfield positions.
ROTATION Because of a shoulder injury to the staff ace, Luis Severino, who is expected to return in May, Domingo German made the team as the likely fourth starting pitcher. Luis Cessa, who had a strong spring, also made the team and will have a fluid role. Jonathan Loaisiga will begin in the minor leagues but then take C. C. Sabathia’s spot on the roster after the fifth game of the season.
In addition to deciding the personnel of the rotation, Boone told reporters the team had not ruled out using an opener, an increasingly popular tactic in which a relief pitcher begins the game and is replaced by the traditional starting pitcher to take advantage of matchups.
Some alternative strategies could be advantageous, as the Yankees will play short one man on the roster while Sabathia, who is a few weeks behind his fellow starting pitchers because of off-season operations on his heart and knee, serves a five-game suspension stemming from an episode in which he threw at Tampa Bay’s Jesus Sucre in a game last fall. They will add Sabathia to the injured list to bring up Loaisiga.
It helps that the Yankees’ first six games are against the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers, two of the worst teams in baseball last season, and that a day off follows the first game. Masahiro Tanaka will start opening day on Thursday, and James Paxton and J. A. Happ will start the next two games.
BULLPEN The Yankees’ bullpen will be Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Stephen Tarpley and Cessa. With Dellin Betances set to begin the season on the injured list because of a shoulder injury, Tarpley, who made his major league debut last September and cracked the postseason roster, earned the final spot in the bullpen. He did not allow a run this spring.
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