TAMPA — Eager to get a better jump on the upcoming season, Ben Rortvedt arrived at Yankees camp early. The catcher said he reported around December, wanting to ensure he would be fully healthy and ready for spring training, which could help position him for a roster spot.
For a second straight season, however, he has been struck by injuries, this time both “bizarre” and “frustrating.”
Under the Tampa sun, Rortvedt began getting the wrong kind of color. His index finger on his left hand, which previously was sore, began becoming discolored — on Saturday it had a blueish tint. He did not think much of it initially: Catchers’ hands get beaten up routinely. He saw a few doctors, and the issue went undiagnosed until he underwent imaging that showed a circulation issue.
Rortvedt, who as recently as last March was seen as a possible starter at catcher, underwent a procedure Wednesday for what manager Aaron Boone called “an aneurysm of his posterior artery” near his left shoulder. Rortvedt won’t be able to perform baseball activities for at least a month and knows little beyond that.
“Hopefully at the end of spring training, [I will be] starting to work into things again,” Rortvedt said Saturday, adding he is supposed to rest for about a week after the procedure. “I’m definitely out for a month or two or three. I’m not 100 percent sure.”
Rortvedt’s spring training has been a continuation of his exasperating 2022 season. He joined the Yankees last March, arriving with Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the trade that sent Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela to the Twins. Rortvedt, with 39 games of major league experience, was expected to share time with Kyle Higashioka in a revamped and defensively skilled catching tandem.
Instead, he quickly suffered an oblique strain that sidelined him, and the Yankees responded by trading for Jose Trevino, who ran with the job. Rortvedt began a rehab assignment last May that lasted two games before he required arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He did not return until July, when he finished the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and did not make his Yankees debut.
He wanted this season to be different and called the circulation issue “a shock.”
“If I stood here and said I wasn’t extremely frustrated, I’d be lying. Especially last year, the way it was, it hasn’t been the easiest, but it’s something I have to wear on my sleeve at this point in time and just keep moving forward,” the 25-year-old said. “[Spring training is] a time that everyone’s excited. It’s a bunch of excitement, you get to meet all your new teammates, you get to build camaraderie. So I’m super excited coming into this year knowing — I thought I was coming in really healthy.
“To be hit by this has just been kind of blindsiding.”
Nestor Cortes, who seems to always be a surprising athlete, was the Yankees’ PopStroke champion.
The lefty won the team-bonding event Friday, when the Yankees ended their workout early and visited the nearby luxury mini-golf course with holes designed by Tiger Woods.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how good I shot till the end when they called me out,” said Cortes, whose two holes-in-one might have been the difference-maker.
Cortes was grouped with infielders Anthony Rizzo and Anthony Volpe, right-hander Jhony Brito and manager of advance scouting Tyler DeClerck. The Yankees split up the groups and wanted young players around veterans.
“It was definitely good for us. There was obviously some competition involved,” Cortes said. “A little trash talk here, a little trash talk there.”
— Additional reporting by Greg Joyce