It feels like another Yankee is placed on the disabled list every day. New additions this month included Shawn Kelley, Carlos Beltran and CC Sabathia. These are names this team can go very long without. Kelley hit the shelf with a strained lumbar spine (back tightness). Just when he was looking ready to come back, the tightness resurfaced to make it more than a 15-day loss. Sabathia hasn’t looked good all year, and has been diagnosed with degenerative knees. He’ll be out until at least July because of it. Beltran was given 2 weeks to work out discomfort from a bone spur on his elbow. At the end of those 2 weeks, season ending surgery could be necessary.
After the injuries to key players, there is real concern with the lack of power in this offense. Tex, Beltran and Alfonso Soriano are the only real power threats, but Soriano has been in a season long slump and of course Tex and Beltran have missed significant time. And without the power, you need guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to get on base and make things happen. When they get on, they usually steal. But after the final week of the month, Ellsbury’s hot April had turned into a big time slump. A nice surprise has been the hitting of Yangervis Solarte, but even he has hit a skid, something we all saw coming for the 26-year-old rookie. Brian McCann needs to start hitting for this team. His adjustment time is over. Two months are enough for the all-star catcher. Interestingly enough, Ichiro Suzuki is hitting at the clip of how his career has gone, over .300. This is a guy that was supposed to be a 4th outfielder, pinch runner. But injuries have created situations for the sure-fire Hall-of-Famer and he’s doing his best to help in the field, at the plate and on the base paths.
It was a very up-and-down month for the bombers. They showed something winning 2-0f-3 on the road against the great pitching staff of the St. Louis Cardinals. But they were also held to less than 2 runs 8 times (1 win). To be fair, they only lost 2 of the 9 series (3 splits).
Best Starter: Masahiro Tanaka – He takes the award again, and not by default. The MLB rookie continues to dominate. He dropped his first game (and it wasn’t a horrible start) and bounced back with two huge performances to move his record to a stellar 8-1 before June. His ability to go deep on top of his great pitching has helped stopped long losing streaks, and solidified a less than perfect rotation.
Best Reliever: Dellin Betances – So this guy has found it big time. All he does is come in and shut people down for 1-2 innings a la Mariano Rivera in 1996. He’s struck out a ridiculous 56 batters to just 9 walks in nearly 33 innings of work. And he’s also electrified the Yankee Stadium crowd much like Joba Chamberlain did when he first made it with the big club. If the 26-year-old is on the mound, you’re not leaving your seat.
Best Hitter: Mark Teixeira – Early in the month we were all thinking that the wrist was healed and Tex was primed. The power was back. He was playing basically everyday. But unfortunately as the month ran down, the wrist became an issue. Inflammation meant missing a few games at the end of the month, and a trip to the surgeon. He was told it was okay, and returned after missing 3 straight games. But in the 6th inning of the game, Teixeira left and is now back to “square one” with the injury. (UPDATE: Teix did make his return on June 3rd against the Athletics. He drove in 2 runs, including a go-ahead solo homer batting right-handed. The issue has been when batting left-handed.)
Biggest Surprise: Chase Whitley. Who? The rookie is a huge reason why the Yankees are still hanging around the top of the American League Division. The 25-year-old righty doesn’t have a win in 4 starts, but he should. His last two performances were worthy of the W, but the pen and offense didn’t help him, leaving him with an 0-0 record and a 2.37 ERA. (Honorable Mention: John Ryan Murphy – the young backstop made us all expand on the J.R. and he started hitting. He doesn’t play often backing up the All-Star McCann, but when he does, boy oh boy is he hitting! In limited action, Murphy is hitting a scorching .348.)
Record vs AL East: 11-9
Overall Record: 29-26 (2nd in the East)
It took a big month from the Toronto Blue Jays and Edwin Encarnacion (16 homers last month), and .500 record to bump the Yankees from 1st to 2nd after May, but considering all the injuries and inconsistency, you’ve gotta be happy to be over .500 for the season.