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Yankees, so far, immune from MLB injury bug

Ken Rosenthal took a detailed look at the historically high rate of injuries plaguing baseball Tuesday in The Athletic – a troublesome revelation for MLB but one that actually paints a positive picture for the New York Yankees.

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Per information provided to Rosenthal from an independent firm, overall IL placements are up 15 percent in the first month of this year compared with 2019 with a 22 percent increase for pitchers and a 97 percent increase in soft-tissue injuries.

The good news for the Yankees? They’re in the back half of the league when it comes to IL stints this year at six with just eight teams having experienced less. It’s an understatement to call it a seismic shift from the injury issues of the last several seasons – more like galactic.

For perspective, in each of the last three seasons, the Yankees have had at least nine, what we could safely term, notable players placed on the IL that either occurred in spring training and affected opening day status or occurred before May 5.

The names included key starters in the lineup and rotation including Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton, CC Sabathia, and Greg Bird (hey, he has important at one time). On May 5, 2021, the list includes just Luke Voit and Zack Britton – each on their way back – and Darren O’Day.

Following a record-setting 39 trips to the IL in 2019, the Yankees proactively took steps toward addressing the ongoing injury problems with the 2020 hiring of Eric Cressey for the new role of director of player health and performance. Cressey founded Cressey Sports Performance and had built a client list full of notable big leaguers including Max Scherzer, Noah Syndergaard, and Corey Kluber. His task was simple – figure out why the Yankees get hurt all the time and provide a solution.

Early returns were much of the same with 15 IL stints halfway through last season’s 60-game schedule, forcing Brian Cashman to counsel that the philosophical transition could actually result in an injury increase initially, but that the changes would pay off long term:

“The historical data does show that when teams make significant changes, even if they’re for the better, you get some exposure and increased injuries that do hit. That was being shared by just objective data and some engagement with other sports franchises that shared, ‘Hey, don’t be discouraged if the following happens in the transition, but you know it’s a long haul and you’re shooting for higher ground over the course of time and don’t try to judge something too quick.’

It’s still early to call it a success but for the first time in a long time, injuries aren’t the biggest story surrounding the Yankees.