What initially appeared to be a harmless foul ball in the second inning could turn out to be a big blow to Mark Teixeira and the Yankees. The first baseman was diagnosed with a strained hamstring and has an MRI set for Monday, overshadowing Masahiro Tanaka‘s Major-League debut. If the test results are unfavorable, the Yankees will be in deep trouble at Teixeira’s position. Infield depth is not a strong point of this team, so any significant injury could expose this flaw.
Depending on the outcome of the MRI, a contingency plan is already in place. Kelly Johnson has already been tapped as Teixeira’s backup, so it would make sense for him to slide into a starting role. In all likelihood, that would mean a platoon of Yangervis Solarte and Dean Anna at the hot corner. Eek. Farther down the line, in Triple-A Scranton, is Russ Canzler. A right-handed bat, Canzler was with the club in Spring Training and probably would be best utilized in a platoon.
If, unfortunately, Teixeira must take an extended stay on the disabled list, I would expect the Yankees to look outside the organization for help. The solution illustrated in the previous paragraph shouldn’t be considered anything more than a stopgap. The most obvious and easily attainable option would be free agent switch-hitting Kendrys Morales. His defense would be a significant downgrade at first, but his offense would be nearly as good as Teixeira. The issue with Morales is twofold: is he worth sacrificing another draft pick, and are the Yankees willing to pay him? Ownership has already stated that the bank is closed when asked about Stephen Drew. But wait — that might bring us to a more sensible option. Sign Drew, put him at third, and let Johnson play first. Obviously, Drew might not be ready to play third base immediately and could need time at extended Spring Training. I’m getting way ahead of myself, as we don’t yet know the significance of Teixeira’s injury, but there are some capable replacements available.
It’s far too idealistic to expect Teixeira to stay healthy for a full season, even if this injury simply is day-to-day. Hopefully, the Yankees get some good news on Monday, but if not, it will be important for the Yankees to make a move at the position as soon as possible. The longer they wait, the less of an impact any replacement can have on the team while lesser players get undeserved time.
Should the Yankees have been better prepared for this? Probably. Teixeira is far from a pinnacle of health, having not played a full season of games since 2011. The hamstring issue is nothing new, too. You may recall his more serious (let’s hope) hamstring injury in the 2010 ALCS. Even if Monday’s MRI comes out clean, the Yankees still won’t be out of the clear. Given all that’s happened with Teixeira in recent seasons, it’s hard to imagine him making it through 2014 without something else bothering him.