- Last Updated: 1:05 PM, June 10, 2012
- Posted: 2:14 AM, June 10, 2012
Hiroki Kuroda said his left foot felt “much better” yesterday at Yankee Stadium, while Brett Gardner, stationed in Charleston, S.C., told his bosses his right elbow was worse.
And with that confluence of events, the Yankees’ game plan seems likely to change. Suddenly, as teams head toward the period of serious trade discussions, this team might have to prioritize an outfield upgrade over one for its starting rotation.
Gardner couldn’t even make it through a full game Friday night with Single-A Charleston, leaving in the top of the sixth inning. He’ll see noted orthopedists James Andrews and Tim Kremchek this coming week, and it’s natural for baseball fans to anticipate the worst when Andrews’ name in particular is mentioned.
In the best-case scenario, the Yankees don’t expect to get Gardner back until after the All-Star break next month. The worst case would call for the Yankees to lose Gardner for the duration of the season.
The Yankees haven’t missed Gardner severely because Raul Ibanez, 40, signed primarily to serve as the team’s designated hitter against right-handed pitching, started his 32nd game in the outfield last night as the Yankees defeated the Mets, 4-2, in the second Subway Series game at the Stadium.
Ibanez doesn’t cover the sort of ground Gardner does out there, but he represents a considerable upgrade in the slugging department and is even one of the few Yankees performing well with runners in scoring position.
Andruw Jones, 35, has helped the team as he did last year, with occasional starts in the outfield and others at DH, though his splits oddly have reversed with better numbers against righties than lefties.
Nevertheless, no less an authority than Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, “I don’t want to overexpose the old guys.”
And there’s no disputing the Yankees’ offense has lost its speed dimension with the injury to Gardner and the demotion of Eduardo Nunez to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Internally, the Yankees have Chris Dickerson, who spent some time in the majors last year and is currently with Scranton; he’s more of a backup, as you recall. They also have Nunez, whom the Yankees not long ago envisioned as someone who could help as a super utility player. He’s out with a right-thumb injury, however, and not ready to return any time soon.
Outside the organization? Well, this will be a challenging year because the addition of the second wild card means fewer teams will surrender and trade veteran players. A wrinkle of the new collective bargaining agreement — free agents acquired midseason can’t be offered arbitration and therefore can’t bring back up a compensatory draft pick — will further increase the difficulty of completing a deal.
There surely will be options, though. The Padres will listen to offers on free-agent-to-be Carlos Quentin; his pro is his power, while his cons are his right-handedness and that he’s returning from right knee surgery.
The Cubs would throw a party if they found a taker for former Yankee Alfonso Soriano, who is enjoying a decent season and is owed $18 million annually through 2014. This one just doesn’t make enough sense. Besides, at 36, Soriano is older than Jones, and he’s worse defensively than Ibanez.
The Angels’ Torii Hunter? Maybe. The Angels do have a glut in their outfield. The Phillies’ Shane Victorino? For sure, if Philadelphia gives up, which probably won’t happen. The Twins’ Denard Span? He’s under control through 2014, so the price would be high.
It doesn’t look like a great market, yet it looks like a place where the Yankees might be able to find some sort of solution if Gardner can’t make it back. The starting pitching shopping list looks to be even worse, so if the Yankees have to choose a poison, they probably are better off with yesterday’s news going the way it did.
There could be more twists of fate that shift the Yankees’ radar once again. However, this felt like a significant shift, one we’ll probably be talking about for a while. As will the Yankees themselves.Follow @NYPostsports