Yanks hobbled, but standing, after trip
Adequate record masks loss of several critical contributors
CLEVELAND -- The Yankees return home now, after a journey that Lewis and Clark would have rejected, because it was just too arduous or because they sensed that neither Chicago nor Cleveland was the gateway to the Pacific Ocean.
Ending Monday night in Cleveland with a 5-2 victory, the Yankees have had to play 18 of 20 games on the road. And their 18 road games were the most played by any team in April in Major League history.
The trek was made necessary in part by the Papal visit to Yankee Stadium. In a way, this is what can happen when your home is one of the most famous sports facilities in the world, conveniently located in America's largest city. The Pope does not have to make appearances in the smaller rooms.
But the question is, how did the Yankees do with three at Kansas City, three at Boston, two at St. Petersburg, two at home against Boston, three at Baltimore, three at Chicago and, finally, four at Cleveland?
Officially, they went 10-10, fairly representative of their 14-13 season to date. With a rash of early-season injuries, they may have been fortunate not to be in a worse position. But no, with those injuries, they are not fortunate.
The latest is the most serious. Catcher Jorge Posada flew to Birmingham, Ala., on Monday for an appointment with Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedic surgeon, and tests on his injured right shoulder.
The Yankees continue to be publicly hopeful that the injury is nothing worse than a muscle strain. But you don't get to be a noted orthopedic surgeon by routinely recommending Extra-Strength Tylenol and lots of rest. Players don't get to the appointment-with-James Andrews stage with the routine nicks and scratches.
Monday night was the first time since Sept. 1, 1996, that the Yankees played a game without Jorge Posada on the active roster.
"It's strange when you walk into the clubhouse and you don't see him there," said manager Joe Girardi, who noted that he had first seen Posada in the Yankees' clubhouse nearly 12 years ago.
Posada's backup, Jose Molina, becomes the interim frontline catcher, and Chris Stewart comes up from Triple-A as the backup. Molina is a capable defensive catcher, but neither he nor Stewart can be expected to replace Posada's offense.
This was the most notable injury, but far from the only injury.
"How many times have we had our regular lineup, twice?" said Girardi, correctly answering his own question.
The entire left side of the infield has been nicked up -- Derek Jeter first with a strained left quad, and more recently Alex Rodriguez with a strained right quad before being struck with a pitch on the left thigh on Monday night.
"He's not 100 percent, and he hasn't been 100 percent the whole time," Girardi said of Rodriguez. "He gave us four games and kind of sucked it up for us, and I appreciate that."
Looked at optimistically, which is the way the manager expresses it, this situation is certain to level out, and the Yankees will become healthier. But if this glass is half empty, these injuries could merely be symptoms of the fact that this is a club that has some significant age in some important spots on its roster.
But with all the aches and pains, and with road games as a constant condition of their April existence, it is distinctly possible that 14-13 is not a particularly tragic result. It's not in the Yankee frame of reference to accept this sort of record, nor should it be, but the Yankees come off this expedition exactly one game out of first place in the American League East. True, there are three clubs virtually tied for first place, but everyone understands that this is a temporary condition.
"You're not where you want to be in the division, but through this tough schedule, we didn't get buried," Girardi said.
"I'm not satisfied. I think we should have won more games. We've had a tough schedule, we've had to battle through some things, but I'm not satisfied. I'm happy with the effort and how hard our guys have grinded it out. Yes, I'm happy with that. But I think we can play better."
There are plenty of questions about the young starters. There are too many injury concerns for comfort, particularly with a catcher who seems like an indispensable portion of this franchise.
On the other hand, some Yankee aspects don't appear to change at all. Mariano Rivera is 11 innings and eight saves into the season, and he has allowed four baserunners. He remains as close to a constant as an athletic event allows.
Now the Yankees return home, after going to the Midwest, New England, the Gulf Coast, the Mid-Atlantic region, and finally making stops on the shores of two Great Lakes, Michigan and Erie. There is an excellent chance that nobody other than a politician seeking nationwide office, or a fugitive from justice, would ever make this sort of journey.
But it was forced on the Yankees. They did not quite thrive during this epic journey, but they did survive.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.