Monday, April 13, 2009

The Invaluable Jorge Posada: Yankee Catcher Is Healthy, Back In Action

Last April, Jorge Posada injured his right shoulder while warming up on Opening Day. No one knew about it, however, until several days later. At the time, it didn't appear to be too serious, but no one could've imagined how it would've impacted the Yankees' season.

I was in Florida for the first week of the season last April, and Yankee games were not being aired. Luckily, the Internet connection on my phone allowed me to get scores and updates on my team.

I remember I was out to dinner, and I was trying to check the score when I saw a headline stating that Jorge Posada was scratched from the lineup with a sore shoulder.

The first thing I did was text my friend back home who was always up on all the happenings in sports to find out what the deal was.

Mat quickly informed me that Posada was said to have some soreness in his throwing shoulder after an awkward throw on Opening Day. He didn't know how bad it was, but said the Yankees would be in serious trouble if Posada was out for a long stretch of time.

As it turned out, Posada had tendinitis in his shoulder and was out for almost eight weeks. The Yankees were definitely suffering without his leadership behind the plate, and his bat as well.

Even though Posada was said to be OK, he didn't look like his usual self. He wasn't nearly as aggressive at throwing out base runners, and his swing looked some what off.

It wasn't until July, that the word got around that there might be something more than tendinitis wrong with Posada's shoulder. He was being sent to several orthopedic specialists to get the best opinions possible.

By the All-Star break, the Yankees were barely staying afloat. They had been hit with some pretty bad injuries, and the only real bright spot was Mike Mussina and the stellar season he was having.

A couple weeks later, while on my summer vacation, I again went to my phone to check the score of the game. Needless to say, I was shocked to see that Posada was done for the year, and was having season ending shoulder surgery.

All of the specialists had confirmed that he had a tear in his labrum, and if he wanted to be ready for Opening Day 2009, surgery was his best option.

I knew right then and there, that the Yankees were in serious trouble. They had been playing catch-up all year, and without Posada, things weren't looking much brighter. Like Mat had said months earlier, you lose a guy like Posada for a long stretch of time, and your team is not in good shape.

Don't get me wrong, Jose Molina is the best backup catcher the Yankees have had in years, but the lack of Posada's presence on the field and in the clubhouse had a huge effect on the rest of the team.

What Jorge brings to the table is more than just calling pitches and coming up with hits. He is the one that mans the pitching staff. It is so important for him to develop a relationship with the entire pitching staff, and keep everyone on track. He is the guy that is vocal in the clubhouse when individuals or the entire team need to be reminded what is expected of them. He is a gritty, grind it out type player, which is an invaluable quality.

The Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, and a big reason for that was the injuries, Posada's in particular. If the Yankees were hoping to improve their team for the following season, they were going to need to first, get some serious pitching, and hope that Posada would be able to catch come Opening Day.

At the start of the 2009 season, no one knew how Posada's surgically repaired shoulder would respond. The Yankees were determined not to rush his rehab, but Posada was progressing well and on schedule to be behind the plate for the first game of the season.

In the first six games, Posada has shown that his shoulder is more than healed. He has not been hesitant about throwing out base runners, and already has one home run under his belt. He's been driving the ball to all fields, and picking up some RBI in the process.

The reality is that sooner rather than later, the Yankees are going to have to replace Posada. I don't know if you can really replace someone like Jorge Posada. You put someone else in at his position, but it is impossible to replace what he does for the Yankees.

Hopefully Posada is able to stay healthy and provide the Yankees with his leadership as well as his baseball abilities. The healthier he is, the better position the Yankees are in, and if they want to go all the way, he's one of the key pieces to the puzzle.

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