Aaron Judge

Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports

ALDS lining up for Red Sox, with A's rotation shattered, Yankees still unsure on Chapman, Judge

John Tomase
September 12, 2018 - 10:34 am

Barring a miraculous run by the Rays or an improbable shakeup atop the AL West, the Red Sox will almost certainly face either the Yankees or A's in the divisional series, and that's good news, because both are battling major injuries.

The A's just announced that left-hander Sean Manaea, who no-hit the Red Sox in April, will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery and likely be sidelined until 2020. Meanwhile, Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has been out since late August with knee tendinitis, and GM Brian Cashman is on record that Chapman might not return this season.

With the playoffs officially clinched in Boston, let's take a quick look at the injury situations of their most likely first-round foes.

The two big names in New York are Chapman and slugging outfielder Aaron Judge. Chapman had a PRP injection in his knee and on Friday played catch for the first time since hitting the DL on Aug. 22. Teammates expect him to return.

"I'm not Cashman, but I know Chapman is coming back," fellow reliever Dellin Betances told MLB.com recently. "Chapman is a monster, man. You can't keep that guy out. From talking to him, he's starting to feel better. I just know that he's one of a kind. He'll fight through anything."

Judge remains more of a mystery. A fastball broke his wrist in late July, leading Chapman to predict he'd return within three weeks. That was six weeks ago, and Judge only resumed taking batting practice on Monday. The Yankees still expect him back this month, but they have no idea how game-ready he'll be.

"You don't know exactly," manager Aaron Boone told reporters in Minneapolis, including Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. "However many games he plays with us down the stretch, (hopefully) it's enough where he gets into a really good place from a timing standpoint. One good thing is, we've got a really good player we're talking about. Hopefully, whatever amount of at-bats he has are enough to get him locked in."

Catcher Gary Sanchez is back, but his struggles continue. He rejoined the team on Sept. 1 after basically missing two months, and has hit just .182 in nine games, which is right in line with his season average of .187.

Of greatest concern to New York is ace Luis Severino, who isn't technically hurt, but sure is pitching like it. Since beating the Red Sox on July 1, Severino is 4-5 with a 6.83 ERA in 11 starts.

Then there are the A's. The Manaea news represented more of the same for a club that has rebuilt its rotation from the ground up at least twice since spring training. Just consider the fate of the season-opening rotation, which lasted exactly two turns:

Opening day starter Kendall Graveman -- Tommy John surgery

Manaea -- Shoulder surgery

Daniel Mengden -- Hurt foot, spent six weeks in minors, now pitching in relief

Daniel Gossett -- Tommy John surgery

Andrew Triggs -- 60-day DL with triceps strain

And that doesn't even count starters Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk, who underwent Tommy John surgery in spring training. To compensate, Oakland signed old friends Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson in March, plucked Edwin Jackson off the scrap heap in June, and traded for Mike Fiers in August. GM David Forst told the San Francisco Chronicle that the club is still claiming pitchers in September just to find the innings to survive the rest of the regular season. It's easy to envision them winning a wild card game with nine pitchers.

Their last turn through the rotation featured only four starters, and one of them was reliever Liam Hendricks, who pitched one inning in an 8-4 victory over the Rangers that featured seven members of Oakland's insanely deep bullpen. Hendricks pitched in relief the next afternoon.

The A's own a bullpen ERA of 3.26, which ranks third in baseball. Their relievers are 38-12 for a winning percentage of .760, one-one-thousandth of a point behind the Red Sox (35-11, .761) in 40 more innings.

Despite all of the injuries to their rotation, the A's have still won five straight and eight of 10, so maybe there's no pitching malady they can't withstand.