TAMPA, Fla. — Two key Yankees may be out longer than originally expected to start the 2019 season.
While pitcher Luis Severino had already been scratched from his opening day start on March 28 because of a shoulder injury, General Manager Brian Cashman gave a clearer estimate on Friday, saying Severino would be out until the beginning of May “at the very earliest.”
“I can’t tell you past that,” he added. “If it needs to be more, we need to make sure we don’t have a problem with it.”
Aaron Hicks, who has been dealing with a back injury, may not be available for opening day, either. Cashman said the Yankees had yet to determine if the center fielder would be available for their first game, against the Baltimore Orioles, but he admitted the team had begun considering how to juggle the roster if Hicks was not ready.
When Hicks’s back stiffness first emerged two weeks ago, the Yankees believed it would be resolved in a few days. The discomfort persisted, however, to the point that Hicks received a cortisone shot in his back on Monday.
Cashman said Hicks, 29, could see a stint, if needed, on the 10-day injured list.
“We’re running out of time,” Cashman said. “We’re going to do what’s right for us in the long haul.”
Hicks said on Friday that his back felt “great,” but he was doing only conditioning exercises and had not yet resumed hitting. “If I keep staying pretty stable, I’m not too worried about it,” he said.
Whenever his back is ready for hitting, Hicks said it would not take him long — 15 to 20 at-bats, he estimated — to regain his timing for the season. Hicks, who received a seven-year, $70 million contract extension last month, made clear he wanted to be on the field against the Orioles on the 28th.
“You want to feel that rush of opening day, and you want to be introduced with your team,” he said.
If Hicks is on the injured list to start the season, the Yankees will use Brett Gardner in center field, with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge on each side. The ripple effects on the rest of the roster are also yet to be determined: Who would be the fourth outfielder? Would the team carry both Luke Voit and Greg Bird at first base?
Severino, 25, who signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension last month, received a cortisone shot for his right rotator cuff inflammation and still has several days remaining in his 14-day shutdown from throwing. He will start playing catch next week, and if he encounters no issues it will still take at least a month to rebuild his arm strength and stamina to the point where he can return to a major league game.
Severino, who will be replaced by Masahiro Tanaka for the start on opening day, said he understood the reasoning for his being held out for all of April. “I just want to be healthy and help my team,” he said.
Cashman said the Yankees expected starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia, whose spring training has been hampered by off-season surgeries on his heart and right knee, to be ready “at some point in April.” Sabathia, who may appear in his first spring training game next week, also must serve a five-game suspension to start the season stemming from an incident in which he threw at Tampa Bay’s Jesus Sucre in a game last fall.
Cashman insisted he was pleased with the team’s internal candidates — Luis Cessa, Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga — to fill the rotation spots until Severino and Sabathia are back. But he wouldn’t rule out other options.
“Doesn’t mean we’re not opposed to outside opportunities,” he added, “if those opportunities match up with our interest level.”