MILWAUKEE - The “storm clouds” GM Brian Cashman said every team eventually has to deal with when it comes to rotation issues are here.
For the third time in four weeks, the Yankees lost a starter, this time CC Sabathia. The lefthander complained of pain in his right knee after Saturday night’s start and an subsequent MRI showed fluid on the knee. The MRI did not show a meniscus tear, something for which Sabathia underwent surgery to repair in October 2010.
“We’re hoping it will only be 15 days,” Joe Girardi said late Sunday morning.
Sabathia, 33, will be evaluated in New York Monday by team Physician, Dr. Christopher Ahmad.
“There’s no meniscus tear, that’s what our fear was because that’s what he’s had in the past,” Girardi said. “We’re hoping it will only be the two weeks. We just have to get it to calm down.”
In the meantime, Girardi said, Alfredo Aceves, picked up two days before the end of spring training, is the in-house candidate to take Sabathia’s rotation spot.
The Yankees broke camp looking as if they had the deepest stable of starters in the American League. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda comprised the starting five and Adam Warren, David Phelps and Vidal Nuno, all beaten out by Pineda for the fifth spot, shifted to the bullpen.
But Ivan Nova was lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his elbow in April and Pineda is out at least six weeks, and probably a bit more, with an injury to his teres major muscle, located just beneath his surgically repaired right shoulder.
The Yankees current rotation now looks like this, should no outside starting option become available, unlikely at this time of year: Aceves, Kuroda, Nuno, Tanaka and Phelps, Sunday’s scheduled starter against the Brewers.
“Obviously it tests your depth and it stretches you,” Girardi said. “The two guys we’ve brought in so far [Nuno and Phelps] have done a pretty decent job. It’s going to be tested further now.”
Sabathia allowed four runs, just one earned, and eight hits over 5 1/3 innings in Saturday’s 5-4 loss but he gave up three homers and a bevy of hard-hit balls. Girardi said he couldn’t say if Sabathia, 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA so far this season, had been affected by the knee.
“He said a few previous starts he would feel it on one pitch but it was something he’s dealt with for a while so he didn’t have a need to say anything to us,” Girardi said. “Yesterday [Saturday] it got bad and swelled up after the game.”
The situation the Yankees find themselves in brought to mind comments Cashman made several hours before his club opened the season in Houston when he was asked about the apparent overstock of starting pitching the organization had at its disposal.
"We're hoping we have some depth, we're hoping we have alternatives," Cashman said, raising the specter of injuries. "We're hoping we have the protection when the storm comes because it does come; it comes for everybody. Thankfully, the storm clouds have been pushed off for a period of time, but they're coming. It's our job to be ready for it when it comes.”
If those clouds hadn’t arrived already, they officially did Sunday morning.