NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — It’s a good thing the Yankees hold a five-game lead over Baltimore. New York might need every bit of the head start after losing their top two pitchers.
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The Bronx Bombers put CC Sabathia on the disabled list before their game on Wednesday, and are set to make the same move with fellow starting pitcher Andy Pettitte after he fractured a bone in his left leg when he was hit by a batted ball in the Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.
On one of the most unfortunate days of this season for a team that has had some seriously lousy pitching luck, manager Joe Girardi appeared optimistic. He had some reason to be: His team was still up by a healthy margin in the AL East.
“If we have to score some runs, we’ll score some runs,” Girardi said.
They are probably going to have to score some runs.
Right-hander Adam Warren is set to be called up from Triple-A on Thursday to make the start on Friday in Sabathia’s place. Freddy Garcia is slated to go Monday in Pettitte’s spot, and the Yankees are getting David Phelps to pitch deeper into games in the minors with an eye toward bringing him back to the big club as a starter.
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“He is having a good year,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of Warren. “He has definitely earned the opportunity. His day happens to be Friday so that works out. He will have a chance to come in here (Thursday) and soak up the atmosphere.”
Cashman said he didn’t want to make a trade to replace Pettitte in the rotation. Garcia has improved his velocity and command recently, and has been an effective starter most of his career. That includes a start in a playoff game he made for New York last season.
“Phelps is a guy, who, if he were stretched out, would be our prime candidate,” Cashman said. “We’ll just have to figure it out. I would prefer not to go outside.”
Pettitte will be gone for much longer than Sabathia, who is only expected to miss two starts while on the 15-day DL because he strained his groin. Pettitte could even be placed on the 60-day DL, though the team estimated his earliest return after six weeks.
The Yankees say they expect the break to heal without surgery.
Casey Kotchman’s low line drive hit Pettitte near his left ankle, the one the left-hander pushes off with. Pettitte took a step toward the ball near the third base line before gently dropping to the infield grass.
Pettitte tried to stay in the game, but Girardi removed him when Pettitte came up limping after throwing one live pitch. Pettitte, who spoke to reporters after the game on crutches – while clutching a tiny plastic bag with a few white pills in it – said it hurt too much to push off properly when he was facing a batter.
“I’ve been hit in the shin, in that area, so many times and I’ve never had to come out of a game,” Pettitte said. “As soon as I threw that first pitch, I had an awful lot of pain, all the way down to my foot.”
Pettitte (3-3) retired after the 2010 postseason but returned to the Yankees this spring to shore up New York’s pitching rotation, which at the time had already lost Michael Pineda to shoulder surgery.
Pettitte, who has a 243-141 career record, is in his 14th season with New York.
With Pettitte out, Derek Jeter is now the only Yankee on the field from the club’s core four of players who won four World Series titles from 1996-2000. New York closer Mariano Rivera is out because of a season-ending knee injury, and Jorge Posada retired.
“No one is going to feel sorry for us,” Girardi said. “Guys have to step up.”
Although Sabathia is the better pitcher, the Yankees may be better able to weather his absence if he misses only two starts.
Sabathia felt a twinge in the muscle on the inside of his left leg in the fourth inning of Sunday’s win over the Mets. He didn’t tell anyone about it until he still felt discomfort following a bullpen session Tuesday as he prepared for his next start.
“I wanted to go out and pitch Friday, but it’s early in the season and I want to be healthy,” Sabathia said.
Sabathia said he completed his bullpen session, and the injury didn’t alter his throwing motion, though “it didn’t feel good.”
Sabathia has been durable throughout his 12 seasons – this is his third trip to the DL, following two with Cleveland. The most recent one was six years ago, when he missed the first month of the season because of a right oblique strain. He won the AL Cy Young the following year, and the Indians came within one win of taking the AL pennant. They traded Sabathia the following season.
He has been healthy for the Yankees until now, and if it had been September or October in the midst of a pennant race, that likely would have been the case. But in June and with the Yankees in first place, Cashman said there is no need for the Yankees to put their ace at risk of aggravating the injury.
“It was a one-way conversation,” Cashman said. “I did all the talking. I know what he wants to do, but this is what we’re going to do.”
The Yankees have lost enough pitchers to injury this season.
Pineda is out for the season after having shoulder surgery – before he even pitched in a big league game following an offseason trade from Seattle. Rivera tore his ACL and damaged the meniscus when his foot caught near the outfield wall while he was catching fly balls during batting practice before a game in Kansas City.
Despite all that, the Yankees have won 15 of 18 games and lead the tough AL East.
“We have a pretty experienced club,” Girardi said. “We lost the greatest closer of all time, we were able to respond.”
Do you have confidence the Yankees can hold on until Andy gets back? Be heard in the comments below…
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