Well, this isn’t ideal. The Yankees’ PR Twitter account announced Friday that Opening Day center fielder Aaron Hicks has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right intercostal muscle strain. Outfielder Billy McKinney has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take his spot on the active roster.
There’s no clear evidence as to when in last night’s season opener Hicks suffered his injury. Hicks went 2-for-4 with two strikeouts against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday. He spent most of 2017 as the Yankees’ primary center fielder, slashing .266/.372/.475 (127 wRC+) with 15 home runs in 88 games. He did spend extended time on the disabled list in 2017 with a nagging oblique injury.
McKinney impressed with his power in Spring Training after being added to the 40-man roster in the offseason. He slashed .167/.340/.524 with five homers and 13 RBIs while seeing time in the outfield corners and first base. He picked up a first baseman’s glove again for the first time since high school with the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. McKinney showed his first round promise last year between Double-A and Triple-A, slashing a combined .277/.338/.483 with 16 home runs and 64 RBIs between the two levels.
This injury complicates things slightly for rookie manager Aaron Boone. Luckily, he has a lot of versatility that he can deploy with his bench. I think we might see a bit of Tyler Wade in the outfield now, with Neil Walker sliding to second base and Tyler Austin getting more reps at first base. Brett Gardner likely slides into center field to replace Hicks.
Of course, Giancarlo Stanton can also play left field, though the plan with that was to limit his time out there to games against tough left-handed pitchers. McKinney can play both outfield corners as well.
The news out of Tampa continues to be promising about Jacoby Ellsbury, whom Brian Cashman said needed “40-50 at-bats” before he would return from an oblique injury suffered early in Spring Training. Even with all of his faults, Ellsbury’s ability to play center field would greatly help the Yankees.