No Such Thing as a Minor Injury for Yankees’ Ellsbury

Jacoby Ellsbury will likely miss the remainder of the spring with a “minor” oblique strain, but as any Red Sox fan can tell you, Ellsbury’s minor injuries are rarely that. Should the Yankees be concerned?

The New York Yankees had to deal with a number of injuries last year and that led to a very disappointing season, one which saw the Yankees fail to get to the postseason for the second consecutive season. This hasn’t happened since 1993-94. There is a culture of winning that the Yankees have built over the past two decades and the fans have come to expect that every season. A lot of the success this year will depend on the health of this season and recently one of the star players has been shut down for a little while. They say his injury isn’t severe; I say, beware.

Yankees starting center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has been diagnosed with a mild oblique strain that occurred in a recent Spring Training game. It is expected that he will miss the remainder of Spring Training and there are questions about his availability for Opening Day. The team will find out more news in the coming weeks as they shut him down for a week to let him rest. One important thing to note is that Ellsbury is 31 years old and as a speed guy, if his legs aren’t 100 percent, he becomes a different player. While this injury isn’t directly to his legs, any core issues can certainly put a guy’s flexibility, quickness, and, as a result, speed, in jeopardy.

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While he is expected to be back in time for Opening Day, this injury should concern Yankees fans as these types of nagging injuries have a tendency to follow him around. It seemed as though every other year with the Boston Red Sox, Ellsbury would get hurt and miss a significant part of the season. Last year just so happened to be the second time that Ellsbury remained healthy for two consecutive seasons since his first full season in 2008. His durability was one of the issues that many felt kept Boston from making a serious run at keeping him after their World Series win in 2013.

The first problem came in 2010 when Ellsbury collided with third baseman Adrian Beltre in an attempt to catch a foul ball. Ellsbury was shaken up after the play and an MRI revealed hairline fractures in a number of ribs. After a brief stint on the disabled list, Ellsbury returned but only played in three more games before going back on the disabled list due to rib soreness. Ellsbury made on more attempt to come back, but it didn’t last long and his season was eventually shut down after only playing in 18 games.

Terry Francona, Jacoby Ellsbury, Paul Lessard

Ellsbury enjoyed a great bounce back season in 2011, when he won AL Comeback Player of the Year and was second in MVP voting behind Justin Verlander, but 2012 saw him banged up again. Ellsbury was once again involved in another collision, this time with Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Reid Brignac. This left Ellsbury with a shoulder injury and he would miss much of the first half of the season and only ended up playing in 72 games, but all of his stats took a dive. Ellsbury has a knack of having injuries bother him for long periods of time and one can’t help but wonder if this will be the case once again.

Ellsbury was one of the few Yankees that had a good season last year. He hit .271 with 16 home runs, which isn’t bad for someone who was switching between the first and third position. Ellsbury was second in the American League last season with 39 stolen bases and was a big part of the Yankees offense. This came in the first season of his big seven-year, $153 million contract. He led the team last year in hits, batting average, and on-base percentage, and was in the top five of the rest of the offensive categories.

If the Yankees are without Ellsbury, that leaves a big hole on their team. The team does not have a lot of viable options in the outfield. The most likely solution would be to slide Brett Gardner over to center field and use a platoon of players in left field including Garrett Jones and Chris Young. The Yankees do have a couple of options in the farm system, but nothing comes close to the production that Ellsbury can provide if he is healthy.

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The New York Yankees need a lot of things to go right this year if they want to be a legitimate contender in the American League. The division isn’t as tough as it once was, which can be a good thing for New York, but that doesn’t mean that the Yankees will have an easy time winning. The Orioles are reigning division champs and are returning most of the same team, but there are also the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox who have made a number of improvements over the winter and look to be in contention for the majority of the season. Ellsbury’s health should be monitored all season, as Red Sox fans know all too well “nagging injury” turns into “shut down for the year” all too quickly with Ellsbury.

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