Trio Of Yankees' Brightest Must Overcome Injuries In 2012





NEW YORK—Three of the Yankees' finest prospects suffered serious injuries during the 2011 minor league season. Yet the organization feels fortunate that all three have made significant progress during the winter.

Center fielder Ravel Santana dislocated an ankle and suffered ligament damage that ended his season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in mid-August.

High Class A Tampa catcher/third baseman J.R. Murphy ended his season in July when he broke a bone in his foot with a foul ball.

Center fielder Slade Heathcott had reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder, the second procedure in as many years carried out on the 2009 first-rounder's throwing shoulder.

Since Santana's injury was the most gruesome, his productive rehab has encouraged the Yankees.

"He is really doing well, and obviously we are happy about that," minor league head Mark Newman said of the 19-year-old Dominican who hit .296/.361/.568 with nine homers in 162 at-bats. "He will be ready to go at some point in spring training. We feel good about it, but we have to wait to see how it plays out."

The Yankees' catching depth may have obscured the performance by Murphy last year, when the 20-year-old batted .287/.325/.434 in 341 at-bats at two Class A stops.

"He is fine, 100 percent," Newman said of Murphy, a second-round pick in 2009 who played third base for the first time as a pro last summer and might get a look in the outfield this season.

Heathcott's athleticism and competitiveness lend hope that the 21-year-old can overcome the shoulder problems that have contributed to his playing just 129 games in two years.

"He had the labrum reconstructed and is in the middle of his rehab," Newman said in late December. "We are not sure if he will be ready for Opening Day yet, but there have been no setbacks."

YANKEE DOODLES

• New York retained managers for its top three farm clubs, bringing back Dave Miley to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Tony Franklin to Double-A Trenton and Luis Sojo to Tampa.

• The Yankees promoted two coaches to new roles for 2012. New low Class A Charleston manager Carlos Mendoza served the same role in 2011 in the GCL, while short-season Staten Island manager Justin Pope coached at Trenton. Elsewhere, Tom Nieto returns to the organization as GCL manager.