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Yankees Might Be Cursed By An Injured Dutchman: Didi Gregorius Leaves WBC Early
- Updated: March 20, 2017
For any MLB team, the World Baseball Classic is a gut-churning event. These organizations watch as their players leave Spring Training to go represent their respective countries in the relatively new tournament. In the past, the WBC has seen players get injured while participating in the practices or games. Dustin Pedroia and Mark Teixeira have been victims of that circumstance. Now, New York Yankees’ shortstop Didi Gregorius might be facing a similar fate.
Gregorius, who played for Team Netherlands, has returned to the Yankees’ facilities in Tampa to get his throwing shoulder looked at. According to the New York Daily News, Gregorius experienced pain in his throwing shoulder during an exhibition game that the Netherlands played against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona. He has been removed form the roster of the Netherlands. On Sunday, Gregorius went for an MRI by the request of the Yankees. According to MLB.com, Didi Gregorius has been diagnosed with a hematoma of the subscapularis muscle.
A Daunting Diagnosis
The diagnosis that Gregorius currently has is only a preliminary one. It serves as more of an indicator of what the possible injury actually might be. A hematoma of the subscapularis means that there is swelling in that muscle in the shoulder. This could indicate numerous different injuries, including bursitis in the shoulder or (worst case scenario) a rotator cuff tear. While the hope is that Gregorius will only need some time off and then he will be ready for spring, the Yankees do not know what he is dealing with until further tests are done.
While the rotator cuff tear is worst case scenario, bursitis and tendinitis (which is another possibility) are nothing to sneeze at. As a former pitcher, I have had experience with bursitis in my throwing shoulder. Even after an operation that removed the bursitis, my shoulder took a while to recover. Every person is different, however, bursitis could be a longer recovery time than the Yankees hope.
Potentially Missing An Important Piece
If Didi Gregorius has to miss any regular season time, it will be a big loss for the Yankees. The shortstop who has replaced Derek Jeter had a solid season last year. He tied Gary Sanchez for second in home runs on the roster, trailing only Starlin Castro. That power was unprecedented for Gregorius, who topped his career high by 11 home runs. Also, Gregorius slashed .276/.304/.447 while raking up 70 RBIs.
One of the few bright spots from 2016, Gregorius seemed poised to continue his upward trend in his MLB career. In six games played with the Netherlands this spring, Gregorius was batting .385 with 5 extra base hits (1 home run) in 23 at-bats. Even before heading off to play in the WBC, Gregorius looked good in his limited appearances with the Yankees. He hit a home run on the first pitch that he saw. This season, Gregorius could be batting anywhere from second to sixth in the lineup.
Where Does This Leave the Yankees
Obviously, if Didi Gregorius has to miss Opening Day and regular season time from this injury, then the Yankees will have to scramble to fill in his slot at shortstop. While the Yankees have been doing that since Gregorius left for the WBC, it is slightly different to do that during Grapefruit League action than the regular season.
While it might be tempting to imagine a scenario where Gleyber Torres is in pinstripes on Opening Day, it will not happen. Despite his impressive spring, Torres will begin the year in Double-A Trenton. That leaves the Yankees with prospect Tyler Wade, utility infielder Ronald Torreyes, or non-roster invitee Ruben Tejada. Before this potential injury, Torreyes seemed to have the inside edge of making the last spot on the roster off the bench. That is assuming Joe Girardi goes with a four-man bench.
Out of those three, I would choose Tyler Wade. Wade has been impressive thus far in Spring Training. He is batting .394 in 33 at-bats. He has only struck out 5 times and has three extra base hits. Wade would be a good choice since he is a prospect and it would be an ideal opportunity for both player and organization to see how good he could be at the MLB. The injury to Gregorius does not look to be an insanely long one, so Wade can get a taste of the big leagues before continuing to sharpen his skills in Triple-A.
An Unconventional Option
While Tyler Wade was the best of the three named, there is another option that the Yankees can look to go with at short. Rather than call up Wade or use one of the non-roster invitees, the Yankees could decide to slide second basemen Starlin Castro over to his initial position. Castro used to play shortstop for the Chicago Cubs before being traded to New York. In the same MLB.com piece, Castro is quoted saying “I can do that, for sure. That’s my natural position” to the idea of shifting back to shortstop.
An unconventional option, to say the least, Castro would be more of a known commodity at shortstop. In 847 games at shortstop, Castro has a .963 fielding percentage. However, sabermetrics do not favor him at the position. Castro was worth an average of -6 runs defensively at shortstop during his career while being worth 7 runs as second basemen. There is a defensive trade-off with going with Castro at short, but perhaps it is a “safer” bet.
Unfortunate Injury to Didi Gregorius
Whether Gregorius has to miss Spring Training time only or some of the regular season, the worst case scenario of playing in the WBC happened. For the Yankees, it is their hope that Gregorius will only need time off. If the Yankees want to contend for the postseason this year, then Didi Gregorius needs to at shortstop. While Gleyber Torres might steal the position from the knighted player, it will not be this season. The constant improvement from Gregorius is promising for the organization. I personally believe that Gregorius has a great chance of being an All-Star this season. But that will not happen if he has to spend time on the DL.