When it comes to injuries this season, every Yankee step forward seems to be accompanied by two backward.
Before Monday’s scheduled game against the Baltimore Orioles was postponed because of rain, the Yankees welcomed a key player, center fielder Aaron Hicks, back from the injured list. He has been out since March 1 with a lower back injury that required two cortisone shots and a lot of rehabilitation.
But in the afternoon, the Yankees announced that the game’s scheduled starter, Jonathan Loaisiga, would be scratched and shut down for four weeks with a rotator cuff strain in his throwing shoulder. He became the 17th Yankee to land on the I.L. this season.
The most ominous news was yet to come: third baseman Miguel Andujar returned to the I.L., his troubles at the plate making clear that the labral tear in his right shoulder was still affecting him. Andujar, 24, was expected to be re-examined soon, and the possibility of season-ending surgery has not been ruled out.
“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily off the table, but I wouldn’t say that it’s more so on it now,” Boone said of the possibility of surgery. “We’ve got to get a better handle on this, and then probably just get him built up in the best way possible if we can move forward with that.”
Andujar, the American League rookie of the year runner-up last season, originally hurt his throwing shoulder diving back to third base on a pickoff attempt on March 31. At the time, the Yankees said the tear was small and that Andujar still registered good strength in his shoulder. Boone on Monday said Andujar had received a couple of medical opinions in which surgery was not suggested.
Andujar’s situation is a bit murky: Some players who sustained labrum tears — including an unnamed former Yankees pitcher, according to General Manager Brian Cashman — have undergone rehabilitation and returned to play without needing surgery.
“Some people can sustain and last with the new norm and others can’t because it’s painful, and you have to react to that pain and surgery comes in to be an intervention to fix,” Cashman said last month.
Andujar has not publicly complained of any pain, but his performance at the plate has caused concern. He had said that the injury manifested itself most when he threw, not hit, so the Yankees put him through a stretching and strengthening routine, plus a gradual throwing program, before he returned from the first I.L. stint on May 4.
With the emergence of Gio Urshela, a sure-handed third baseman, the Yankees were able to use Andujar primarily as a designated hitter. But Andujar, usually a stout hitter, went 3 for 34 with no runs batted in, nine strikeouts and weaker contact than normal. After internal discussions, the Yankees decided to give Andujar another break.
“He’s such a tough player that he’s able to deal with stuff,” Boone said. “But I do think it takes him longer to get ready each and every day.”
The Yankees’ medical staff has been busy this season — and that was before Andujar and Loaisiga joined the wounded on Monday. Loaisiga, who felt discomfort in his shoulder after a bullpen session this weekend, had been filling in for James Paxton, who has been out since May 4 with left knee inflammation. The Yankees don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until May 21, and Paxton might be ready to return by then.
At least one thing was certain on Monday night: Hicks had fully recovered from the back injury that was originally supposed to keep him out only a few days during spring training but lasted over two months.
Boone has often referred to Hicks, 29, as one of the most underrated players in baseball — a strong defender who can smash home runs, draw walks and hit from both sides of the plate.
Boone said part of the reason for Hicks’s long rehabilitation was the Yankees’ desire to make sure his body was conditioned and built back up properly.
Since dealing with what he said doctors termed chronic back pain, Hicks has added a new workout routine that he said helps his core and hips, and thus his back. “When I do my core exercises, my back feels good,” he said.
Monday’s game was rescheduled to Wednesday as part of a single-admission doubleheader, with the first game beginning at 3 p.m.