New York Yankees

What could the newly reported Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova injuries mean for the New York Yankees’ World Series Championship hopes?

By Bryan Pol

Here in the thick of the “dog days” of summer, sports news tends to run a little bland.

Prior to MLB’s non-waiver deadline on July 31 (at approximately 4 pm ET), not all NFL teams have reported to their respective training camps. In that regard, the league creates news (earlier this week, the NFL upheld Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his involvement in the Deflategate scandal) to keep its product relevant.

In that regard, a man like WFAN’s Mike Francesa often takes weeks off at a time in July and August from his afternoon radio show, simulcast daily on FOX Sports.

Apparently, that was not the case today.

At 1 pm ET, as part of the Benigno and Roberts broadcast, Francesa dropped some harrowing New York Yankees news.

Calling into the show earlier today, Francesa reported this to WFAN co-hosts Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts:

“I hear [Michael] Pineda’s hurt. He’s not pitching tonight, and he might be badly hurt. And I hear [Ivan] Nova’s hurting.”

To accentuate his breaking news on Pineda, Francesa noted Pineda “could be headed to the DL” with an elbow issue.1yanks2

Fresh off the Pineda report, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that “Bryan Mitchell is starting tonight [in Texas] for Yankees in place of Pineda.” (He later tweeted that CC Sabathia, not Mitchell, would get the start). Furthermore, Sherman added, in conferring with sources, including a Yankee executive, “Pineda is dealing with forearm muscle strain, not elbow. [The injury] is not considered serious.” Additionally, Sherman reports that Pineda’s injury, a Grade 1 forearm strain, is no different from the ailment that sidelined closer Andrew Miller for a month. Thankfully, Miller has returned to form since his stint on the DL.

Pineda, roughed up badly in Friday’s 10-1 loss to the Twins, is 9-7 on the season with a 3.97 ERA, striking out 117 batters, walking only 15, in 118 innings. His success off a relatively great 2014 season, along with Masahiro Tanaka’s, who avoided Tommy John surgery in spite of various elbow and forearm issues, and Nova’s, who is 3-3 this campaign with a 3.38 ERA, is a main reason why the Yankees have rebounded from two dreadful seasons to jump to a six-game division lead in the AL East.

The news of Pineda and Nova’s ailments comes at a dire time. The Blue Jays, who recently acquired shortstop phenom Troy Tulowitzki, have outdone themselves to land another prize in David Price, who has managed a 9-4 record to the tune of a 2.53 ERA, thanks to three complete games, including one shutout. Those same Blue Jays are seven games behind the Yankees for the division lead, with thirteen games left to play against the Bombers. Naysayers will note that Price, acquired by Detroit at the deadline last year, was brought in to lead the Tigers to a World Series. They instead were swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS.

Never mind that other valuable arms have been snatched up, including Johnny Cueto (to the Royals), Mat Latos (to the Dodgers), and Cole Hamels (to the Rangers).

Although New York plays more home games than road games the rest of the way, including no more West Coast trips remaining on the schedule (all to their benefit, as playing at Yankee Stadium has given life to Mark Teixeira and A-Rod’s bats), the Yankees find themselves taxing their stout bullpen (manager Joe Girardi makes no qualms about using Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller despite large leads) with little to no recourse in the way of bringing in arms—perhaps second-tier starters like James Shields or Mike Leake—to salvage a depleted rotation.

Calling up prospect Luis Severino, who is presently dominating the minors with the Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre Rail Riders (he is 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA), may be too drastic, as he is roughly a season away from joining a major league rotation.

Joe Girardi, after recently winning his 700th game as Yankee manager, faces the real possibility of missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season if the rotation misses Pineda and Nova for an extended period.

While the likes of Hamels and Price could have been brought to New York, general manager Brian Cashman was adamant about not including prospects Aaron Judge, Severino, or Gregory Bird in any deal, and such pieces would have been the only means by which such arms would be Bronx bound.

While the Rangers could have Hamels for as long as the 2020 season, they too will see the return of Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, as well as major league call-ups for Martin Perez and Chi Chi Gonzalez, in 2016. The Royals, by landing Johnny Cueto, put less pressure on the struggling Yordano Ventura, allowing a true ace to lead Kansas City back to the World Series. They, like the Blue Jays, are in “win-now” mode. And so, too, are the Yankees.

New York cannot expect A-Rod or Teixeira to repeat 2015’s success for the lives of their contracts—Teixeira, through 2016, and A-Rod, through 2017. CC Sabathia, on the books for $50 million until 2017, has shown no signs of returning to his 2009 form, and the Yankees remain anchored by the Carlos Beltran deal (through 2016) and the back ends of the Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann deals.  The team as currently constructed has a small margin for error.

For the Yankees to win this year, they must bring in arms without mortgaging the farm system. Not an easy task for Cashman by any means.

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I am an English teacher, music and film aficionado, husband, father of two delightful boys, writer, sports fanatic, former Long Islander, and follower of Christ. Based on my Long Island upbringing, I was groomed as a Yankees, Giants, Rangers, and Knicks fan, and picked up Duke basketball, Notre Dame football, and Tottenham Hotspur football fandom along the way.