Throughout his career, the major knock on Nick Johnson has been his inability to stay healthy. When not on the disabled list or struggling with injures, Johnson is a very solid offensive player capable of posting a batting average north of .280, drawing 80+ walks and hitting 15 or more home runs in a given season. His 2007 season with the Washington Nationals is a fine example of the designated hitter’s ceiling, and with some luck, he could come close to those numbers in 2010…if he can stay healthy.
That’s a big IF, and it always has been with him. He’s been placed on the disabled list at least eight times during his career. He’s been on the 60-day disabled list three times. Needless to say, when you hear that something is bothering Johnson, you begin to worry. Its hard to be optimistic with a player who has only appeared in 59% of his games during an eight year career. Anyway, guess who’s balky back is in the news again:
Yankees designated hitter Nick Johnson was scratched from the lineup on Thursday with a stiff lower back…”I could have played,” Johnson said. “But I felt it back there, so I told them.” (source)
As it turns out, one of his spikes got caught during batting practice which injured his back. He told reporters that he would have played if it had been a regular season game, but it does make you wonder. What if Nick Johnson deals with the injury bug again this season? The Yankees are a much different team than the Nationals and Marlins. They need to be competitive, so every player needs to be at the top of their game and generally healthy. Like the title of this post states, Johnson’s injury history could help outfielder Marcus Thames make the team.
Right now, Thames is competing with Jamie Hoffman for the final position player slot, but the Yankees may have to seriously consider carrying a player with designated hitter experience rather than an extra Randy Winn. Yes, should Johnson miss extended periods because of injuries, the Yankees could use Jorge Posada as the designated hitter and let Frankie Cervelli catch, but that depletes the bench and could cause problems in extra-inning games. Also, having another player on the bench who could juice the lineup with extra left-handed power has to be more attractive than any commodity Hoffman can bring.