UPDATE: PETTITTE JOINS HIM THERE
I published this post in about the third inning of today’s Yanks-Indians game. In the fifth inning, Andy Pettitte took a line drive off his left leg that shattered his left ankle, and he’s expected to miss at least six weeks. That’s 40 percent of the team’s previously lights-out rotation gone in half a day. David Phelps and Freddy Garcia are among the leading candidates to spot start, though you have to wonder if the team will gamble and bring up one of the Killer Bees. Either way, it could be a rocky few weeks for baseball’s hottest team. Below are my thoughts on Sabathia.
In the MLB, there’s durable, there’s consistent, there’s consistently durable, there’s Old Faithful, and then there’s C.C. Sabathia. The Yankee ace makes every start, throws at least 100 pitches, gets into the sixth inning even with less-than-stellar stuff, and at worst keeps the Bombers in the game. Sabathia has gone at least six innings in all but 12 of his 116 starts since joining the Yankees in 2009, a remarkable statistic in the age of low pitch counts and middle relievers.
The hefty lefty’s durability makes the news that Sabathia will go on the DL with a strained muscle in his left leg all the more worrisome. Manager Joe Girardi said that Sabathia has a Grade 1 strain of the adductor muscle in his left leg. The adductor muscle is in the inner thigh near the pelvis, making the injury a virtual groin strain (and we know how hard those are to come back from, especially for pitchers). Though Girardi said Sabathia will only miss two starts and should return in mid-July, any stretch without their burly stopper is too long for the Yankees.
The simple sight of a week of Yankee baseball without Sabathia on the hill will be surreal to many fans, including myself. That’s because in nearly 3.5 seasons with the Yankees, Sabathia has not missed a start. Not a single one. The closest C.C. came to missing his turn in the rotation while on the Yanks was in June 2o09, when he exited after 1.1 innings because of arm fatigue in a 6-5 loss to the then-Florida Marlins. Five days later, he made his scheduled start on time, threw seven innings of one-run ball in a 9-1 win over the Mets and hasn’t looked back since.
The last time Sabathia actually missed a start was way back in April 2006 as a member of the Cleveland Indians when he suffered an abdominal strain on opening day and spent a month on the DL. That was 212 starts ago.
This season, Sabathia has thrown at least 5 2/3 innings and 104 pitches in every start, providing much-needed relief for a stellar bullpen that has fought off the permanent loss of Mariano Rivera and temporary loss of David Robertson with aplomb. He was a virtual lock for 20+ wins and 230+ innings pitched, and he still might hit both those milestones by season’s end. But until Sabathia’s back to his rightful place in his rotation, Yankee Nation will hold its breath.
And oh yeah, Freddy Garcia will start in Sabathia’s place while he’s recuperating. Buckle up, guys.