Issues With The Incumbents: Elbows, And Shoulders, And Knees, Oh My!

Beltran Over Wall Tampa I know I said nobody wanted or needed to read about all the injury risks with this year's team again, but it wouldn't be right to do a series of posts on the biggest issues with the returning players and not mention it.  As it stands right now, almost every returning key player comes with some kind of significant injury risk and that's a storyline that is never going to go away this year, even if nobody suffers a major injury.

So let's review the list quickly, shall we?  The rotation is rife with injury risks, specifically the unholy trinity of Masahiro Tanaka's elbow, Michael Pineda's shoulder, and CC Sabathia's knee.  Tanaka has been on a modified throwing program this offseason, not throwing as hard and as much as he used to before the season, and all reports on his conditioning and elbow have been positive.  Sabathia's offseason program has been even more modified and watered down as he attempts to come back from knee surgery.  He's expected to be ready to start Spring Training at full strength, but the team will almost certainly bring him through camp slowly.  We haven't heard much about Pineda this offseason, which I'm taking as a good thing.  Hopefully his shoulder can be stronger this year as he gets further away from his surgery and back into a more regular throwing and pitching schedule.

In the field, it's Carlos Beltran's elbow and Mark Teixeira's wrist that generate the most concern.  The Yankees are better equipped to handle those injuries through their bench this year, but they still don't want to be in a position where they're paying almost $40 mil for a couple of DL-stricken has beens.  At their ages, there is also reason to be concerned about their legs.  Beltran battled knee problems for years and Teix has racked up an impressive count of leg muscle pulls, strains, and tears over the last handful of years.  These guys aren't the everyday grinders they used to be, and they'll need to be handled with care this year.

Even guys who weren't big injury risks last year could become one this year.  Brian McCann has a ton of catching milegage on his body, Chris Capuano is no spring chicken, and Jacoby Ellsbury has missed big chunks of time before with freak injuries.  While the reports on his physical condition have been encouraging, there is a non-zero chance that Alex Rodriguez's hips are no longer good enough to handle playing professional baseball.  Even young, strong Dellin Betances could be at risk.  He threw a lot of innings last year.  Joe was very careful with how he used him down the stretch, but who knows how that heavy workload on his shoulder and elbow will translate to this year?

The mountain of injury concern with this year's team is a partial byproduct of giving out a lot of long contracts and a partial byproduct of the natural unpredictability of baseball injuries.  Nobody knew Pineda was going to suffer that major shoulder injury, there was no way to predict Tanaka's UCL tear, and nobody knew that Beltran's elbow bone spur was going to creep up and be such a nuisance.  The Yankees have been on the wrong side of the injury luck coin for a few years now, and the odds aren't in their favor coming into 2015.  How many injuries they suffer and for how long is what will, in all likelihood, sink their season or keep it afloat.