Last month, the New York Yankees signed catcher Robinson Chirinos to a minor-league contract that included an invitation to spring training. Chirinos, 36, has spent nine MLB seasons behind the plate and added more depth behind starting catcher Gary Sanchez and backup Kyle Higashioka.
If Chirinos impressed during his showing at Yankees camp, he may have been able to complete with Higashioka for the backup job. But before Chirinos could even prove he's worthy of a big-league roster spot, he suffered a fracture to his right wrist on a hit-by-pitch during an exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates last week.
Chirinos underwent x-rays and a CT scan that determined he will be forced to undergo surgery to repair the break and miss extended time. Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters Monday afternoon, including Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, that the recovery time will be four-to-six weeks for Chirinos. That would put a potential return sometime between mid-April and beginning of May.
"It's been awesome having Robinson in here," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the club brought in Chirinos. "He's been a great teammate. He's really influenced the catching room. He's been a lot of fun for me to be around. Just a really good guy. I'm especially hurting for him today, just knowing how much he's put in to be a part of this team."
Chirinos was the third catcher on the Yankees depth chart, so Monday's news won't directly impact any expected playing time or catcher plans, but it does all seemingly confirm Higashioka as Sanchez's backup to start the 2021 season. Sanchez had a subpar 2020 season, and will be hoping for a rebound during this year's full 162-game slate. If Sanchez were to experience another slow start or suffer an injury, the catching depth in the Yankees organized beyond Higashioka is slim.
Chirinos signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers last offseason before he was sent to the New York Mets at the trade deadline in 2020. He previously played one season with the Houston Astros (2019), seven with the Rangers (2013-18) and one season with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. Last season, Chirinos hit.162/.232/.243 with a home run and seven RBI in 26 games between New York and Texas.
Chirinos is not a catcher particularly known for his defensive acumen (his value is his bat) and given Chirinos' age and declining production at the plate, it was unlikely that he'd serve as any team's No. 1 catcher this year. But with the Yankees he adds catching depth and veteran experience. He's a career .231/.325/.431 (99 OPS+) hitter with 86 home runs, 269 RBI in 602 games.
Boone also provided an updated on Miguel Andujar, who was in the midst of battling for a roster spot before he experienced an injury setback. According to Boone, after meeting with a hand specialist, Andujar is dealing with a muscle strain and nerve issue in his right wrist. There was no clear timetable on a return, but Boone said he will continue to receive treatment.