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Yankees say training team’s overhaul partly to blame for injuries

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Brian Cashman views another injury-plagued Yankees season as unfortunate, not unexpected.

After setting a major league record by sending 30 players to the injured list last year, the Yankees have already placed 13 players on the injured list during this shortened season. Despite overhauling the team’s health and performance staff in the offseason, the Yankees have another roster with championship expectations relying on backups.

A pandemic and a pair of shortened spring trainings likely shoulders some blame, but the general manager believes the changes to the team’s training programs also bear some responsibility.

“One of the things we did learn in our efforts and our studies, there’s a high percentage when you do make changes that your injuries actually do go up [initially],” Cashman said before Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Mets. “I’m not saying that’s a byproduct of any of our changes, because I do think this is a unique sporting year with COVID and a lot of the shortened training programs … [but] the historical data does show that when teams make significant changes, even if they’re for the better, you get some exposure and some increased injuries that do hit.

“That was being shared by objective data and some engagement with other sport franchises that shared, ‘Hey, don’t be discouraged if the following happens in the transition. It’s a long haul and you’re shooting for higher ground over the course of time. Don’t try to judge something too quick and too early on.’ It was a cautionary tale that I got from a team in the NBA that I really highly respect.”

Cashman reasserted his confidence in the new training staff, headed by Eric Cressey, the director of player health and performance.

“We feel really good about the personnel we have in place,” Cashman said. “Everybody got put in place in January, and this first year especially, you start building relationships, start sharing your new programs to try to get players to buy in. … Prior to all these injuries, it was like, I feel like we’re 10 percent into where we are in terms of establishing our new programs, establishing the information feed. None of these are excuses. It’s just the fact.”

Again, Aaron Judge ranks among the Yankees’ greatest health concerns. Struggling with injuries for the third straight season, the former Rookie of the Year couldn’t make it through his first game back in two weeks before re-injuring his right calf on Wednesday, requiring a return to the injured list.

Cashman said the latest strain is less severe, but Judge could end up being on the shelf twice as long this time.

“The [soleus muscle] that he strained is a tricky one, that does have more susceptibility to reoccurrence,” Cashman said. “Usually when you have a failed rehab you do double the time. … I don’t have a prediction of a time frame, but that is a fair assessment to put out there and make sure people don’t have earlier hopes, including our player.”

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