What is the Yankees' plan with CC Sabathia? Is his spot in the rotation secure? The bats can't bail him out every time.
-- John L., New York
Manager Joe Girardi says that the Yankees can afford to have some patience and keep Sabathia in the rotation for now, even though his past four starts have been subpar. Part of the equation is that they have no need for a $25 million long reliever. While it helps that the team has been having success, as Sabathia said, "You want to be part of that winning."
Since opening the season with a 1.47 ERA in his first three outings, all Yanks wins, Sabathia is 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA in four starts, with opponents producing a .966 OPS over that span. No one is more frustrated than Sabathia, who can't figure out why his cutter seems to behave in the bullpen but isn't carrying over to the mound.
Without it, he's down a valuable weapon to set up right-handed hitters, since this version of Sabathia doesn't have the luxury of rearing back to blow the ball by people. The cutter worked better later in Tuesday's outing, and Sabathia's changeup kept him in the game. But unlike the previous two starts against the Orioles and Blue Jays, that hole was too large for the offense.
In the three starts prior to Tuesday, at least the Yanks could point to continued soft contact, but Sabathia was hit rather hard in the five-run second inning by the Reds. According to Statcast™, Sabathia's average exit velocity, barrel rate and expected wOBA (weighted on-base average) have all jumped in his past four starts, so the bloated ERA is no coincidence.
With Aaron Hicks playing so well, what will happen to his playing time?
-- T.J. H., Bismarck, N.D.
The Yankees have talked about stepping up their outfield rotation to find playing time for Hicks, who bounced back nicely after losing a spring competition with Aaron Judge. This was an excellent road trip for Hicks, who was 10-for-22 (.455) with two doubles, a homer and four RBIs against the Cubs and Reds.
Girardi can easily use the excuse of wanting to keep Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury healthy, and Judge can't play every single day. No matter how they fit him in, Hicks showed late last year that his performance jumps with everyday duty, and so he deserves to keep getting looks.
When Greg Bird returns from injury, will he be able to turn his season around and give the Yankees a consistent first baseman?
-- Walter W., State College, Pa.
That's the plan, though it is crucial that the Yankees don't rush it. Bird is in the middle of a seven- to 10-day stretch with absolutely no baseball activity, which is intended to allow the bone bruise to heal. The initial injury happened on March 30 in Clearwater, Fla., but general manager Brian Cashman recently revealed that Bird reinjured himself during the series against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
The thought is that when Bird completes his rest and rehab, he'll be plugged back into the lineup. Anyone who watched Bird in Spring Training could plainly see that he was a different player once the season began, so improved health should restore some of that explosiveness.
Let's assume Derek Jeter becomes a part owner of the Marlins. If the Marlins played the Yankees in a future World Series, who do you think he'd root for publicly and privately?
-- Ron M., Wexford, Pa.
Jeter would always say that a season was a failure if the Yankees didn't win the World Series, and I suspect that he really believed that. If it's his money and reputation on the line, you'd better believe Jeter would want to beat the Yanks. Girardi was asked a similar question recently and said that he couldn't imagine Jeter pulling against his own team.
"Not if we're playing," Girardi said. "We all know how competitive he is, but other circumstances, I think he'll always root for the Yankees."
Chase Headley has made seven errors so far. This guy won a Gold Glove Award in the past. Where did that go? I would love to know statistically where he stands since joining the Yankees.
-- Chris J., Mesa, Ariz.
Headley's defense was more of a concern two years ago, when he committed a career-high 23 errors at the hot corner. Headley worked a lot with infield coach Joe Espada to reduce that total to 10 last year, but there haven't seemed to be many sure throws in the early going this year. The advanced analytics agree: Headley has been worth -6 defensive runs saved so far in 2017 after being worth seven DRS in '16, according to FanGraphs.
From July 22, 2014 -- Headley's first game with the Yankees -- through Tuesday, he has played a total of 3,172 2/3 innings in 374 games (359 starts) at third base. Over that span, only Kyle Seager has made more errors (43) as a third baseman than Headley (42). Seager made 22 last year, but he was also worth 15 DRS and listed as an American League Gold Glove Award finalist because of the range he showed.
Since that day he boarded a flight in Chicago and delivered a game-winning hit for the Yanks, Headley's .959 fielding percentage ranks 22nd out of 42 players who have played a minimum of 108 games at third base. That's comparable to Jake Lamb (.960), Josh Donaldson (.958), Eduardo Nunez (.958) and David Freese (.958). Jose Ramirez (.977) has the best mark.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.