We’re three weeks into the season.
That means it’s already “over” for many, many teams. Angels? Cooked. Blue Jays? Finished. Dodgers? Why’d they even bother to take the field this year?
This, of course, is a joke, but notice one team impatient fans haven’t dug an early grave for? The Yankees. Yes, this is the same Yankees squad that supposedly came into 2013 with one foot already in the grave. It wasn’t going to take much for the reactionaries among us to make it both feet in the grave.
Alas, the Yankees find themselves in a familiar position with 12.3 percent of their season already in the books: The thick of it. Partly to thank are journeymen spare parts Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner. If the good news is that the Yankees’ veteran fliers are paying off, the better news is that reinforcements are on the way.
Curtis Granderson (forearm) has been cleared to resume taking live batting practice, and will soon head to extended spring training. If all goes according to plan, he’ll begin a rehab assignment before the end of the month, and rejoin the Bombers in the first week of May.
Granderson is not a perfect player. He’s 32, and coming off a season where he hit .232/.319/.492 and struck out 195 times. But he’s also not Brennan Boesch, and will provide some much needed thunder for a Yankees lineup that can’t keep living off the fat of the Wells and Pronk land.
Then there’s Mark Teixeira (wrist). Ambitiously aiming for May 1 since going down on March 5, Tex admitted the obvious Wednesday when he said that wasn’t going to happen. However, he remains on pace to meet the 8-10 week timetable for his return.
Like Granderson, Teixeira is a player whose best baseball is probably behind him. He’s become increasingly injury prone, and saw his OPS plummet to .807 in 2012 after it rested at .835 in 2011. Since Opening Day 2010, he’s hit .252/.347/.484 with a 121 OPS+. That’s good, but not $22.5 million great. But just as Vernon Wells and Brennan Boesch can’t compare to Curtis Granderson, Lyle Overbay really can’t compare to Mark Teixeira. Tex will be a strong threat to hit 25 home runs if he meets his return date, while his glove remains superb.
The sun is setting on the core that led the Yankees to their 27th world title in 2009. Derek Jeter is out until after the All-Star break, Mariano Rivera’s on his last ride and Alex Rodriguez...well who knows with Alex Rodriguez. But this is still a team that’s going to compete in a wide open American League East, and they’ll soon be doing it at much closer to full strength.
Here Comes Hanley?
As intimated in the lede, it’s absurd to suggest the 9-11 Dodgers don’t have all the time they need and more to make a serious run at a division crown. But yeah, a $220 million payroll shouldn’t be playing .450 ball, no matter what the calendar says.
Like the Yankees, a big part of the Dodgers’ struggles has been a wave of injuries. Like the Yankees, they’ll soon be getting one of their stars back.
Hanley Ramirez (thumb) — who was hurt playing for his country in the World Baseball Classic — is hoping to begin a three-game rehab assignment next week, which would put him on track to return as early as next weekend.
It’s quite possible he’ll need more time to get ready after originally being given an eight-week timetable, but the wheels for H2R’s return are very much in motion. That’s good news for the Dodgers, and even better news for fantasy owners who rolled the dice in the fifth round of their draft.
On any given night, you might see the Brewers play Yuniesky Betancourt or Alex Gonzalez at third base. Soon, the horror will end.
Out since April 6, Aramis Ramirez (knee) is nearing a return, and will do so without a rehab assignment. Ramirez is targeting the Brewers’ next homestand, which begins Monday and ends May 8. Weekly-league owners will likely be best off leaving A-Ram benched for one more week — even if he does return on Monday he’ll likely be quite rusty — but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Game Notes: Thine eyes have seen the glory: Matt Kemp has finally homered. ... The Papa Grande attack is back, Jack. Jose Valverde’s first appearance of 2013? A 1-2-3 save. Count on that being the exception, not the rule. ... Roy Halladay made it three good starts in a row. It’s probably time to exhale. ... Pedro Alvarez: Officially on one of his hot streaks. ... For the fourth time in 127 career starts, Edinson Volquez did not walk a batter. ... Rick Ankiel has more extra-base hits than Josh Hamilton. ... What Yu Darvish did to Mike Trout is illegal in 48 states. ... J.P. Arencibia hit his eighth home run. ... Edward Mujica nailed down his third save in three days. ... Craig Kimbrel blew just his fourth save since 2011. ... Todd Frazier hit a ball 480 feet off of Jeff Samardzija. ... Alex Cobb dominated the Yankees.
American League Short Hops: Yoenis Cespedes (hand) could begin a rehab assignment as early as today. ... Erick Aybar (heel) may be activated this weekend. ... Shane Victorino was removed from Boston’s win over the A’s with lower-back tightness, but the move was deemed precautionary. ... Au revoir, Alfredo Aceves. ... Michael Saunders (shoulder) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma this weekend. ... Joel Hanrahan (hamstring) will begin a rehab assignment on Friday.
National League Short Hops: Brewers manager Ron Roenicke hinted John Axford is close to reclaiming the ninth inning. On the off chance he remains unowned in your league, the time to take a flier is now. ... Francisco Liriano (arm) should make his Pirates debut on May 10 against the Mets. ... A struggling J.J. Putz remains the Diamondbacks’ closer, but owners should keep an also struggling David Hernandez on speed dial.
Take a few minutes to read Joe Posnanski’s article on Rick Ankiel.