After their off day on Thursday, the New York Yankees will play eleven straight games. The first four will be at Camden Yards against the Orioles before the Bombers head back to New York for a three-game set against the Chicago White Sox followed by a four-game set with the Detroit Tigers. Following that stretch, they will head west to play the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners in what should be two series with playoff implications.
If the Yankees were at full strength for this eleven game stretch on the East Coast, it would be one of those stretches where they could have expectations to go at least 9-2 or 8-3 and create a sizable cushion in the Wild Card race and even make a dent in Boston’s lead in the division. After an ugly 9-3 loss to the Miami Marlins on Wednesday, however, it looks like the Yankees are going to have to find ways to grind out wins with Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Aroldis Chapman all on the disabled list. Each name on that disabled list is important to this Yankees team, and their absences over the next week will make the spotlight even brighter on the players that will be going out and playing every day. Let’s take a look at some of the important things to watch for prior to the Yanks heading out West.
The bullpen without Chapman
On Tuesday night, Aroldis Chapman had to exit the game during a 12th inning appearance as he suffered from another knee flare-up, something he has been dealing with almost all season. He will be sidelined for ten days while he gets to rest and receive treatment. In the interim, the Yankees are likely to turn Dellin Betances to be the high leverage, closing pitcher. With David Robertson dealing with some shoulder tenderness and Zach Britton not being all that sharp, Betances seems to be the safest bet. It will be interesting to see if Tommy Kanhle gets more opportunities in high leverage situations as he continues to get his velocity back up.
Furthermore, even though Britton will likely not close out games, The Yankees will be forced to ask a lot more of him, as he will now serve as the sole lefty out of the Yankees bullpen. Chapman’s DL stint will allow the depth of the Yankees bullpen to show its true worth finally. There have been some bumps along the way this season, but maybe the fact that they all have to step up will make them more prepared for October baseball.
Gleyber Torres at shortstop
Torres is a player built for the left side of the infield. He’s got a strong lower body with great hands and an above average throwing arm. The only reason he has been at second base all season is because of Miguel Andujar and Didi Gregorius manning the left side. Now, with Gregorius on the 10-day disabled list, Torres will have the opportunity to play extended time at his primary position. He likely has less range now than he did prior to bulking up his lower half, but his hand dexterity and strong throwing arm have not gone anywhere. He started at shortstop in both games against Miami and showed flashes of excellence but also looked a bit sloppy at times, especially on the quick turns at second base for double plays. That’s expected for somebody that has spent their entire season at second base. The next eleven games will give Gleyber the opportunity to show what he is made of at shortstop, and what he could provide at that position in the future. In a way, it’s an audition for 21-year-old old.
Greg Bird‘s extended slump
Greg Bird has been mired in what is probably the worst slump of his entire career. In August, Bird is 9-for-71 with a slash line of .127/.205/.254. Furthermore, he’s got two home runs, which came in back-to-back at-bats, and is striking out nearly 25% of the time. To add insult to injury, Tyler Austin has been on a tear since being traded to the Minnesota Twins, and the Yankees could be using his right-handed bat in the lineup. However, they did get Lance Lynn in return, so maybe the deal was worth it for starting rotation purposes. Nonetheless, the Yankees need Greg Bird to snap out of it sooner rather than later. With three great hitters out of their lineup, they have relied more heavily on Greg Bird, and they will continue to rely on him in the hopes that he can get back on track.
All in all, the next eleven games will be a test for the New York Yankees. They need to win as many games as possible against the sub .500 teams before they head West for six very important games against the Athletics and the Mariners. However, the next eleven games will also be a time where we will see players take on even bigger roles than they have been taking on all season. From the bullpen, to the lineup, to the infield, the Yankees need players to step up and fill the void that their injured stars have left behind for the time being.