On the first day of the Winter Meetings, Brian Cashman faced the writers to talk about A-Rod's injury. Here's what he said.
Earlier today, the Yankees put out a press conference about the latest injury to Alex Rodriguez. Shortly after flying coach class into Nashville (no, not because of budget issues), Brian Cashman confronted a room full of reporters eager to ask him how thrilled he is to have Rodriguez for five more years (and maybe some stuff about steroids too, because hey, might as well). Here are some notes from his appearance, which lasted about half an hour:
Rodriguez didn’t say anything about the hip until after Girardi went to pinch hit for him with Raul Ibanez in Game Three of the ALDS. At that point, A-Rod said something about being bothered by his right hip and (Cashman was paraphrasing) not feeling like he was firing on all cylinders. He didn’t feel pain, but he did feel some discomfort. Rodriguez was examined after the game and got a clean bill of health, but that’s because he had the wrong hip—the problem was with the left one, not the right one (which was operated on in 2009). Cashman says that if the doctors had examined his left hip at that time, they would have found the tear, but they didn’t (and shouldn’t have been expected to, since the patient’s complaint pointed elsewhere). Cashman couldn't or didn't explain how A-Rod could be confused about which hip was hurt.
Cashman blames A-Rod’s struggles down the stretch and in October on the hip issue. According to Cashman, with the use of not just one but two “likelys,” it’s a “likely scenario that the struggles that we saw in September and October are more likely than not related to this issue.” Cashman went on to say that it “makes sense that this was something that was hindering him, even if he couldn’t put a finger on it.”
Cashman didn’t disclose the condition earlier because, well, no one asked him about it. When he was asked about DHing or trading A-Rod, he simply said he wasn’t considering either. Yesterday, though, someone asked specifically about the hip, which is why the team chose to announce the issue now.
Cashman compared the injury to Brett Gardner’s and Mariano Rivera’s, in the sense that the Yankees have faced this sort of challenge before and found a way to surmount it. He’s willing to be aggressive with a short-term fix, if something makes sense. If it doesn’t, he’s willing to be patient. In other words, Cashman didn’t give away his precise gameplan for replacing Rodriguez. Shocking.
Cashman said that “Alex has a lot of peace of mind.” The third baseman was bothered by his struggles and happy to have an explanation for them, even though the explanation is something that requires surgery.
The estimated recovery time from this surgery is four-to-six months, at least twice as long as it took Rodriguez to return from the first hip operation. Cashman explained that the bone impingement involved this time around makes the new hip surgery’s recovery time longer.
Cashman hasn’t considered Eduardo Nunez as a third baseman. He views him as a shortstop, which is very charitable of him.
Cashman asked if upgrading the left side of the infield is a “must.” Not surprisingly, he declined to say that it was, since he doesn't like losing all of his leverage. However, he did indicate that it’s important, which didn’t come as a tremendous surprise.
Cashman says there are no long-term restrictions placed on Rodriguez by the surgery. The right hip that was fixed still looks fine, so he expects the left hip to make the same smooth recovery.
Cashman doesn’t believe that the injury to the previous hip has any connection to the new injury, and he doesn’t know if it will affect the rehab process.
Rodriguez said he felt better than he ever had in his career right before the playoffs, and he wasn’t getting any special physical treatment. According to Cashman, the Yankees had no inkling that this was an issue before Rodriguez spoke up.
Cashman says he’s still happy to have A-Rod (independent of the crushing contract, at least). He thinks third base is a difficult position to find a fit for and that A-Rod is still above average offensively at third. He believes the Yankees are still better off with a healthy Rodriguez than a hole to fill, which isn’t the most ringing endorsement, but is probably nicer than the things most writers are writing about A-Rod today.
Cashman was asked if A-Rod’s injuries had anything to do with his steroid use. His answer: “I have no idea.”
One starting pitcher who could have significant interest if he comes out of retirement is 36 year-old Javier Vazquez, who may have been pitching as good as ever when he decided to hang it up after the 2011 season. In the second half of that season, Vazquez had a 2.15 ERA for the Marlins with 16 walks and 96 strikeouts in 96.1 innings pitched. Talk about going out on a high note. But he might not be done yet. According to Peter Gammons, Vazquez could decide if he wants to return after he pitches for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. For now, he's tuning up with his hometown Ponce, where he debuted on Saturday with two shutout innings and four strikeouts against the Atenienses de Manati.
Enrique Hernandez, IF/OF, Astros (Carolina-PRBL): 6-for-11, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 4 SB (4): The Astros' 6th Round pick in 2009, the 21 year-old Hernandez has played primarily second base in the minors but has also spent time at shortstop, third base, and both corner outfield spots. He reached Double-A as a twenty year-old last season and while he struggled there in 23 games (.607 OPS), he's been red hot in Puerto Rico with 13 hits in his last 30 at-bats, including a pair of three-hit games this weekend. 'Kikè;', as he's known, will likely return to Double-A to continue honing his skills as a future super-utilityman.
Rey Navarro, IF, Royals (Caguas-PRBL) 6-for-14, 2 2B, 4 RBI, BB, SB (2): Considered somewhat of a sleeper in the Royals' system after being acquired from Arizona in 2010, Navarro has struggled at the plate since reaching Double-A in mid-2011. He's still a few weeks shy of his 22nd birthday so it's probably too early to write him off as a solid middle infield prospect. If his 17 Triple-A games to end the regular season (.791 OPS) and his first 16 games in Puerto Rico (.807 OPS) are signs of things to come in 2013, the switch-hitting Navarro could be knocking down the door to the big leagues sometime late in the season.
Andre Rienzo, RHP, White Sox (La Guaira-VWL): 3 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K: Despite having his 2012 season interrupted by a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, the 24 year-old Brazilian is back on the fast track after finishing strong in Double-A (3.27 ERA, 9.0 K/9 in 13 starts), dazzling in one Triple-A start (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 10 K) and at times in the Arizona Fall League, and now in Venezuela, where he tossed three shutout innings in his debut. He'll also pitch for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic before heading to Spring Training to compete for a rotation spot with the White Sox. The 6'3" right-hander will likely start the season with Triple-A Charlotte, where he'll continue to work on refining his secondary pitches to complement his mid-90's fastball.
Eddie Rosario, 2B/CF, Twins (Mayaguez-PRBL): 8-for-14, 2 HR, 5 RBI: The 21 year-old is one of those prospects that profiles as good enough offensively for a second baseman or center fielder, but probably not good enough defensively at either position to pencil him into a future Twins lineup. At least not yet. He also lacks the power potential to play a corner outfield spot, which makes him a bit of a 'tweener for now. Regardless, the #6 prospect on Minnesota's Top Prospect Rankings has been playing right field for Mayaguez, where he showed plenty of power, homering twice and knocking in five while collecting eight hits to boost his average to .348.
Dave Sappelt, OF, Cubs (Margarita-VWL): 6-for-12, HR (2), 2B, 4 RBI, BB: You better believe that Sappelt knows, at least for the time being, the starting center field gig in Chicago is wide open and he's hoping the front office brass has been paying attention to his recent hot streak in Venezuela. The 25 year-old, acquired from the Reds with Travis Woodfor Sean Marshalllast December, had a disappointing organizational debut, posting a .690 OPS in 133 Triple-A games after putting up big numbers in the league the previous two seasons. Sappelt finished strong, however, with an .800 OPS during a late-season cup of coffee. If the Cubs can somehow go the entire offseason without acquiring a starting center fielder -- for what it's worth, I think they will -- Sappelt could get a shot at extended playing time early in the season.
Santos Rodriguez, LHP, White Sox (Escogido-DWL): 2 IP, 0 R, H, 0 BB, 2 K. A hard-throwing lefty who stands 6-foot-6 inches tall, Rodriguez had a hard time finding the strike zone in the Arizona Fall League (11.1 IP, 10 BB, 13 K). But there's a reason the 24 year-old reliever was recently added to the White Sox's 40-man roster. Aside from the fact that he's a left-handed pitcher who throws really hard, the 24 year-old is coming off of a stellar season, holding opposing hitters to a .164 batting average between 64 innings in Double-A and 7.1 innings in Triple-A while striking out 69 and walking 35. Nathan Jones and Donnie Veal were breakthrough performers out the bullpen last season. Rodriguez is a candidate to do so in 2013 and he's trying to finish strong in 2012 now that he's joined Escogido.
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The fantasy hour or two goes three hours as Jason and Paul dive deep into the hot stove as well as the third base position for 2013.
3 hours and 19 minutes of show -- about long enough to walk through the lobby of the Winter Meetings hotel. We cover the latest signings, trades, every third baseman on the market, and re-kindle the fantasy coverage at BP for the 2013 draft season.