The Yankees have spent the first two and a half months of their season envisioning the day when their lineup would once again be whole, stocked with Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixiera. Alas, the team has gotten a mere 94 plate appearances from that quartet, and the number doesn't figure to increase anytime soon, as general manager Brian Cashman is leaning toward returning Teixeira — the only one of those four currently on the active roster — to the disabled list.
Teixeira has played in just 15 games so far, hitting .151/.270/.340 with three homers in 63 plate appearances. Diagnosed with a wrist strain in early March, he was supposed to return in mid-May, but when that diagnosis was revised to a partially torn tendon sheath, he missed even more time. He finally returned to the lineup on May 31, and after a few days to shake the rust off, homered three times in a four-day span from June 3 to June 6.
Just when Teixeira seemed to be finding his stroke, he slipped into a 3-for-31 slump. He left Saturday's game against the Angels in the fourth inning and flew back to New York for examination by team doctors, at which time hitting coach Kevin Long revealed that the 33-year-old switch-hitter had been unable to partake in his usual pre-game hitting off a tee due to discomfort with his left-handed swing; he's just 3-for-35 against righties, with only one non-homer hit. In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Cashman admitted he was caught off guard by Long's comments, since he hadn't mentioned his concerns about Teixeira to other team officials. "It's alarming in the fact that K-Long would say that to a group of reporters."
The communication breakdown in the organization aside, Teixeira received a cortisone shot after his MRI revealed inflammation but no structural damage, a "best case scenario" as manager Joe Girardi described it given that with any re-tearing of the sheath "that'd probably be it for the season," referring to the likelihood that such a setback would require season-ending surgery. At the time of the revised diagnosis, Cashman estimated that his slugging first baseman had only a 70 percent chance of recovering without going under the knife.
With or without him, the Yankee offense has fallen upon hard times; if not for a pitching staff ranked third in the league in run prevention, the team would be nowhere near .500, let alone 38-31. New York is scoring just 3.91 runs per game (12th in the league) and is hitting a cumulative .240/.303/.385, numbers that respectively rank 13th, 12th and 11th in the AL. This from a team that plays in a hitter-friendly park and has ranked in the top two in scoring in nine out of the last 11 years; the last time the Yankees were in the lower half of the league was in 1996, when they ranked ninth, and the last time they were 10th or worse was 1991, when they were 12th, losers of 91 games. They've eked out just 3.20 runs per game this month, and on their nightmarish road trip, scored four or fewer runs in eight straight games, losing six. They had a nine-game streak of scoring four runs or fewer from May 25 through June 2, their longest since 2005.
Though the Yankees received big hits early in the year from the likes of castoffs Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner, they've since fallen on hard times to the point that Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner are the team's only hitters with an OPS above 800. Overbay has eight homers but is hitting just .240/.282/.440; after dabbling in rightfield once Teixeira returned, he'll presumably return to manning first barring the unveiling of a robotic Lou Gehrig clone. Wells is batting .230/.273/.383, numbers not far off from his .222/.258/.409 cumulative line in Anaheim; he's at .190/.214/.288 in 159 PA since May 1, including a 6-for-49 skid in June. Hafner is hitting .221/.333/.453 with 11 homers overall, but just .167/.268/.347 in 72 PA since missing five games due to tendonitis in his right shoulder. Additionally, Kevin Youkilis (.219/.305/.343) missed a month due to lower back woes and lasted just two weeks on the active roster before returning to the DL last week. The Yanks' recent slide has knocked them into third place in the AL East, three games behind the Red Sox, and the reality is that the cavalry is a ways from returning. Granderson will have the pin taken out of his hand on Thursday but will need a week of strengthening exercises before he can resume swinging a bat; he won't be back until late June at the earliest. Jeter has just begun doing tee and cage work and won't be back until after the All-Star break. Neither will Rodriguez, who is about to begin facing live pitching in simulated games. Eduardo Nunez, out since early May with an oblique strain, and Francisco Cervelli, out since late April with a fractured hand, are both not expected back anytime soon. All of which is to say that regardless of whether Teixiera winds up on the disabled list or not, it could be awhile before anyone calls this team the Bronx Bombers again.