Let’s start on the injury front shall we? They sure popped up early and often in April. Mark Teixiera went down first with a grade 1 hamstring pull, and closer David Robertson quickly followed him onto the 15-day DL with a groin strain. Both came back after the two weeks were up, and have looked good in a small sample size. Then, Derek Jeter missed he final two games of the Red Sox series. And in that final game (a win) against Boston, Francisco Cerveilli ended up on the 60-Day DL with a grade 2 hamstring strain, Brian Roberts went down with a back injury, and not to mention a scare with April revelation Yangervis Solarte. But the biggest loss? It came after a blowout loss against the Tampa Bay Rays. Starter Ivan Nova, who many thought would have a break out season after a strong finish to 2013, is heading for season-ending Tommy John surgery. The young righty has a torn UCL injury, which already claimed all of 2014 for another one of New York’s up-and-coming stars, the Mets Matt Harvey. The month ends with Brett Gardner nursing a sore foot, and Ellsbury has a day-to-day hand issue.
Considering they started the season with 13-straight games (their first two series were in domes), coupled with the injuries, the Bombers should be very happy with their record. It’s only April, and they’ve already changed their fortunes in the AL East. They only won 6 games against Boston last year, yet they’ve already taken down the defending World Champs 6 times in one month of baseball here in 2014! They lead the division early, only lost 2 series the entire month, and are over .500 in the East. Sabathia continues to search for a way to be successful with his new stuff, but one thing about the big guy you can’t take for granted. He gives you length every start. They might not be the sharpest innings late, but he finds a way to not kill your bullpen.
Best Starter: Masahiro Tanaka – That 24-0 last season in Japan does NOT look like a fluke. Sure it’s early, and the league needs time to catch up, but man does Tanaka look like the real deal. Tanaka’s 3-0 to start his MLB career and has a ridiculous 46 strikeouts to just 6 walks in 35.2 innings. His first start got off to a shaky start, giving up a lead-off homer to Toronto’s Melky Cabrera, but he sure settled down. 3-runs in 7 innings. Then he did it again, going a complete 8 in a shut-out win over the Orioles, striking out 10 along the way in his Yankee Stadium debut. And what about his dominance over 8.1 against the Sox in Fenway! He’s been nothing short of dominant. His one bug-a-boo? The long ball. He’s so in the zone, that balls tend to fly out easily. The good thing is they’ve been solo shots for the most part. (Honorable Mention: Michael Pineda – I could’ve easily made him the best with his 2-1 record, minuscule 1.00 ERA coming off two years of arm issues. If Tanaka has been number 1, Pineda has been 1a for the Yankees pitching staff. Too bad this all came to a screaming halt with a 10-game suspension due to pine tar, followed by a lat strain that will sideline him for another 3-4 weeks.)
Best Reliever: Shawn Kelly – Outside a bad outing in a non-save situation, Kelly did a wonderful job sliding into the closer role while Robertson was on the disabled list. Adam Warren has the other save recorded this season, and without the legendary Mariano Rivera closing games, and a big injury to D-Rob, who would’ve thought they’d make it through April without any blown saves? (Honorable Mention: Adam Warren – He’s adjusted to the short reliever role very well.)
Best Hitter: Jacoby Ellsbury – For any Yankees fans that thought liking his former enemy would be hard, you were very wrong. He’s come in and not only torn the ball off the cover, he’s run the bases better than anyone this team has seen since a young Alfonso Soriano was stealing 40 a year. And no, I’m not omitting Brett Gardner here, who has blinding speed, but doesn’t always take advantage of it on the base paths. (Honorable Mention: Carlos Beltran – Power, power, power. He leads the team in HRs, RBIs, OPS and Slugging %. He’s been another great addition to the Yankees outfield and lineup.)
Biggest Surprise: Yangervis Solarte – He spent the first 7 years of his career in the minors. He wasn’t even supposed to make the team! Yet Solarte hit his way onto the team out of spring training, hitting Eduardo Nunez off the team completely. He can and has played every position on the diamond and has done it well. And talk about a doubles-machine! He’s also tied with Beltran for the team lead in RBIs with 13.
Record vs AL East: 10-7
Overall Record: 15-11 (1st in the East)
So that was April. Coming up in May, the Yankees are on the road a lot, including a 3-game series against the Leagues top team, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Bombers also play their cross-town rivals, as well as the Nation League representatives in the World Series last year, the St. Louis Cardinals.