With all of the injuries that have nagged the Yankee organization early this season, it’s obviously resulted in a call for immediate help from the bench, as well as aid from the farm system. A dwindling depth chart has led the Yanks to ask more out of some than they expected and one in particular has risen to the challenge.
New York didn’t make a whole lot of noise this offseason, but their veteran pickup, 39-year-old Raul Ibanez, has turned up the volume for the Yanks in the early goings of the year and has been the determining factor in a win for the club. Having 16 years in the majors on his resume, Ibanez joined the Yanks with a career .280 batting average, 252 home runs, and 391 RBIs. This was the offensive addition the bombers were looking for to fill the designated hitter spot and he’s provided them with that and more.
Playing in 24 of the Yankees first 29 games of 2012, Ibanez not only had some big at-bats, but has also filled the gaps in the outfield due to the layoffs of Nick Swisher and the still-recovering Brett Gardner, who both missed multiple games with nagging injuries. To this point, he has stepped to the plate 75 times, of which he’s provided his new team with 20 hits, five being home runs, 16 RBIs, a .267 batting average, and .317 on-base-percentange. Ibanez is off to an especially hot start to begin May, batting .353 with two long balls, and four RBIs through six games played. His two homers this month and three of those RBIs came in last night’s matchup with the Rays, which wound up giving the Yankees just enough of an offensive edge in their 5-3 victory.
This winter, the Yankees went after Ibanez more aggressively than other veteran free-agent outfielders, like Vladimir Guerrero and former pinstripes Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. So far, their decision has paid off, as neither Matsui nor Guerrero were picked up by any other team, and Damon who was signed to the Cleveland Indians, has been unproductive to say the least. Signed to just a one-year deal, Ibanez will need to maintain this stride in order to prove that he can still handle a hefty workload and is still capable of contributing consistently. If he provides that for New York through the rest of the season, who knows, maybe the Yanks will reward him with a follow-up deal next year.