Gary Sanchez
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Yankees activate Gary Sanchez

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The Yankees have activated catcher Gary Sanchez from the 10-day disabled list in advance of Saturday’s game against the Tigers, making this the first start the young backstop has seen in nearly six weeks. Sanchez recently completed a four-game rehab stint in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was given an off day on Friday so that the team could recall him when rosters expanded instead of making an additional move.

It’s been a rough road to recovery for the 25-year-old Sanchez, who was sent to the DL twice after sustaining multiple groin injuries this summer. Following a breakout All-Star performance in 2017, he worked through just 66 games in 2018 and batted a career-low .188/.283/.416 with 14 home runs and a .699 OPS through 279 plate appearances. Whether or not he can return to the .275+ average, 30+ home run pace he set last year remains to be seen.

The Yankees also added Andrew McCutchen, Adeiny Hechavarria, Luis Cessa, Tyler Wade, and recently-signed Stephen Tarpley to the roster as part of the standard September expansion. As for other updates to the disabled list, which currently carries Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, and Didi Gregorius, among a handful of others, it doesn’t look like there are any imminent changes to be made, though Gregorius could be reinstated as soon as Friday if he continues to progress in his recovery from a left heel injury.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.