COMMENTARY | And the hits just keep on comin'.
A day after he was scratched from the lineup with stiffness in his surgically repaired left ankle, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter sat out a second consecutive day Wednesday, March 20, and according to The Associated Press, received an anti-inflammatory injection in the troublesome joint.
And what a difference a day makes for general manager Brian Cashman.
After cavalierly dismissing the notion Tuesday that Jeter might not be ready for the opener, Cashman said Wednesday, "Whatever's right for him will be right for us. I'm not saying he's going to be [placed on the disabled list], but I can't tell you it won't be."
The GM also said he doesn't know when Jeter will be able to resume playing in Grapefruit League contests.
Jeter has insisted all winter he will be ready for opening day, but with less than two weeks remaining before the Boston Red Sox come to Yankee Stadium on April 1, the possibility is looming very large that someone other than Jeter will start at shortstop for the first game of the season for the first time since 2001.
Luis Sojo started at shortstop on opening day that season. Jeter returned from a quad strain after missing the first four games, according to NorthJersey.com.
Cashman said Jeter was sent home Wednesday.
"Let the shot take its course and see where he's at over the next few days," Cashman said. "After you get a feel for how he's feeling, then we'll start it up and get him going again. Because of who he is, I can't count anything out. Opening Day is just a date. What's more important is how he feels and be in a position to do what he's capable of doing on a consistent basis."
Under ordinary circumstances, there would be no rush for Jeter to return to the lineup. But this spring is far from ordinary.
The Yankees have been absolutely hammered already by injuries this season. Outfielder Curtis Granderson, first baseman Mark Teixeira and third baseman Alex Rodriguez are already slated to open the season on the disabled list.
Of those three, Granderson is likely to be the first to return; he is projected to be back in early May after breaking his arm. Teixeira may be out until June with a wrist injury suffered during preparation for the World Baseball Classic, and Rodriguez won't be back until the All-Star break, at the earliest, after January surgery on his hip.
There's not a franchise in baseball that could survive for long with four All-Stars on the DL. Add the injuries to the Yankees' sudden bout of fiscal responsibility and what fans have is the all-too-likely possibility of opening a season with aging Kevin Youkilis at third base, defensive disaster Eduardo Nunez at shortstop and journeyman Juan Rivera at first base.
It's enough to make second baseman Robinson Cano, fresh off MVP honors in the World Baseball Classic, glance around his infield and wonder, "Who the heck are these guys?"
And after an unprecedented run of success that includes 17 postseason appearances in the last 18 years, it's enough to make fans seriously wonder whether the proverbial other shoe isn't lurking right over their heads.
Phil Watson is a freelance journalist and commentator currently based in upper Michigan.
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- Brian Cashman
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