Yanks' Harrison Bader has strained oblique, Opening Day status in doubt

ByMarly Rivera ESPN logo
Saturday, March 11, 2023

The New York Yankees' injury woes continued when manager Aaron Boone announced Friday morning that center fielder Harrison Bader was diagnosed with a left oblique strain.

Bader was sent for testing after feeling discomfort on his left side during his last at-bat against his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, on Wednesday.

"Yeah, was on that last swing I took in my second at-bat," Bader said Saturday. "Just super awkward, kind of felt a little rushed in there and took an awkward swing on a bad pitch because it felt a little rushed."

Boone did not reveal the degree of the injury for Bader, but even milder oblique strains, which are categorized as Grade 1, generally require four to six weeks to fully heal.

"It's an oblique [for Bader]. I don't have a timeframe for you yet just because kind of the doctors are all weighing in on it today," Boone told reporters in Lakeland ahead of the Yankees 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers. "Hopefully, I will have a better timeline for you tomorrow [Saturday]. But it'll be some time."

Bader said it's the first time he has ever had an oblique injury.

"No, never [had an oblique injury]. Which is why it's strange to me," Bader said Saturday. "So, again, the preparation aspect and everything I do going into every single day the night before, I prepare accordingly. So it's definitely a punch in the face but it is what it is."

After a relatively uneventful first month of spring training workouts, it was the fourth injury announcement for the Yankees in less than 24 hours.

General manager Brian Cashman announced Thursday that left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon would start the season on the injury list after being diagnosed with a "mild forearm strain." Cashman said that Rodon is expected to return "sometime in April."

Relievers Tommy Kahnle (biceps tendinitis) and Lou Trivino (elbow ligament strain) will also start the season on the IL. Kahnle is on track to resume his throwing program next week and might also be back in April, but Cashman said that Trivino is unlikely to return before May.

Boone said that reigning AL MVP Aaron Judge would be an option in center field if Bader started the regular season on the IL, which seems almost a certainty. Judge performed well defensively, playing in 78 games in center field last season.

Former top outfield prospect Estevan Florial, who is out of options, could also be given an opportunity, but his bat has failed to make an impact in his limited big league experience. Spring invitee Rafael Ortega, a veteran Venezuelan-born center fielder who played 93 games for the Cubs the past two years, has also made an impression in camp.

"He's been one of the guys that stood out to me with the bat, especially against right-handed pitching, I feel like even before Harrison's injury," Boone said of Ortega. "He's very much in the mix of things with what we think he can provide us from an outfield versatility, but also what he can provide against right-handed pitching."

Versatile 23-year-old rookie Oswaldo Cabrera, who was primarily an infielder until having the opportunity to play the outfield for 34 games upon his major league call-up in August, continues to also be an option, as well as embattled outfielder Aaron Hicks, who has been primarily a center fielder in his decade-long major league career.

Cashman said that the Yankees will "gravitate to the best player" who can help the team win. And in addressing the organizational outfield depth after the Bader oblique injury, Cashman told reporters in Tampa that how the Yankees will reconfigure their roster "remains to be seen."

"I know what we're dealing with [with the Bader injury], I just don't know the timeframe," Cashman said.

Boone described losing Bader as missing "one of the game's great defenders out in center field."

"Obviously, he brings an athleticism on the offensive side. We all saw what he did in the postseason with the bat, too. He's a big part of our team," Boone said. "And even though this may delay that a little bit, he's still going to be a huge part of the team this year on a long-term basis. We're confident of that, too."