The Yankees revealed that James Paxton will miss three to four months due to surgery to remove a peridiscal cyst in his lower back on Wednesday.
So what happens now to the team's starting rotation?
Well, for one, it explains why J.A. Happ wasn't being pushed harder in a trade this offseason. Sources told SNY's Andy Martino that a situation like this is why the Yankees didn't want to get rid of the veteran left-hander. The Yankees are already down a starter until June, too, as Domingo German will serve his 81-game suspension due to his violation of the joint MLB-MLBPA Domestic Violence Policy.
Happ didn't have the 2019 season the Yankees thought he would after a stellar second-half following his 2018 trade from the Blue Jays. The 37-year-old owned a 4.91 ERA over 161.1 innings. Still, he'll now be bumped up to the fourth slot in the rotation behind Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka.
Who will become the fifth starter, then, is the big question.
The frontrunner will be Jordan Montgomery, who is confident he can have a bounce-back season after needing Tommy John surgery in 2019. He told MLB Radio last month that he is treating this spring training like he did in 2017, when he eventually won the job due to his stellar play.
"I'm treating this year like 2017, really fighting for a spot," Montgomery said. "I've been out for so long that I don't really think I'm guaranteed anything. Been working hard, kind just having the mentality that I have to go out there and win it back. Kind of fight for it and earn it."
Other options to consider would be Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa, who have both started in the past with some success. Out of camp, there's the longshot that Deivi Garcia, the Yankees' fast-riser in the minors last season, could intrigue them enough to begin the year in the Bronx. But, again, it's a very low percentage.
The safe guess right now would be Montgomery in as the team's fifth starter, and hope he and Happ can have bounce-back starts to the new season. When Paxton and German both return, things will begin to shift again where even Happ's status with the team depending on his production will come into question.
The Yankees dealt with injury throughout the 2019 season, and had that next-man-up mentality that powered them to over 100 wins. They will have to adopt that mantra once again as spring training is about to kick off.