Tough day for Yankees lefthanders
Wednesday was supposed to be a feel-good day for Andy Pettitte. The lefthander was to spend some time with 5-year-old Andy Fass, a legally blind fan whom Pettitte met at a Double A game in Trenton back in April, as part of the HOPE Week celebration.
Pettitte didn’t feel very well in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game when Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman drilled a liner just above the pitcher’s left ankle. Pettitte tried to tough it out and stay in the game, but one pitch later Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to take him out and Andy limped into the dugout.
X-rays revealed a fractured fibula, which will sideline Pettitte for at least six weeks. He was on crutches and wearing a large boot after the game. Surgery will not be required, but the recovery period, especially for a 40-year-old, will not be brief.
The injury came on the same day that the Yankees placed their other left-handed starter, CC Sabathia on the disabled list due to a strained left adductor muscle near the groin. In less than 24 hours, 40 percent of the Yankees’ rotation was in sick bay.
“I know CC felt bad about going on the DL,” Pettitte said. “I think I made him feel better when I told him I’ll be on there a lot longer than he will.”
“A bad day for lefthanders,” Girardi called it. “It’s not what you’re looking for, but no one is going to feel sorry for us. We have been a resilient team. It’s what you have to do.”
General manager Brian Cashman said there is no need to go into panic mode. He does not expect Sabathia to be gone longer that two, perhaps three, starts, and there are some pitching resources within the organization to offset Pettitte’s loss before looking elsewhere. You can be sure that Cashman will get plenty of phone calls Thursday from general managers trying to stick him with overpriced and ineffective pitchers. Did someone say Carlos Zambrano? Yikes!
For the short term, the Yankees will cover the rotation holes with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up Adam Warren, who will start Friday night against the White Sox, and Freddy Garcia, who was the winning pitcher in relief of the Yanks’ 5-4 victory Wednesday, Monday night at St. Petersburg, Fla.
Garcia was originally penciled by Girardi to start Friday night but after losing Pettitte and with Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada having control issues Garcia was summoned to keep the Yanks close, which he did with 2 1/3 hitless innings with two strikeouts. Girardi reasoned correctly that you can’t worry about Friday’s game when you trying to win Wednesday’s.
Don’t forget that Garcia began the season as the Yankees’ fifth starter and has considerable experience to help them whether this storm. Freddy has done a solid job in long relief (2-0, 1.56 ERA) in 10 relief appearances spanning 17 1/3 innings to lower his season ERA to 6.39.
The other important aspect for the Yankees is that remaining starters Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes don’t go out of their way to “step it up” with Sabathia and Pettitte out. Girardi was asked about that and made it clear that none of those pitchers can replace a Sabathia or a Pettitte.
“I’m going to tell them to just be themselves and we’ll take care of the other two days,” Girardi said.
Pettitte had hoped he would be able to continue. He is used to balls being hit back to him and has the shin bruises to prove it.
“That’s what I thought it was at first,” he said. “I figured once I started throwing the pain would lessen the way it did with my shins. It was bothering me in my warm-ups, but when I threw that first pitch [after play resumed] there was an awful lot of pain. It’s frustrating because I had been feeling good. It’s time to put on the pom-poms and be a cheerleader.”
Garcia, Robinson Cano and Eric Chavez came to Pettitte’s rescue as the Yankees ran off their fifth straight victory. Cano put the Yanks ahead with a two-run home run in the sixth off Ubaldo Jimenez, one of the second baseman’s three hits in the game. Chavez drove in three runs with a two-run double in the fourth and an RBI single in the eighth for a crucial insurance run that loomed large when Rafael Soriano gave up a run.
It could have been worse, much worse, but Soriano got a huge strikeout of Johnny Damon with the bases loaded in a confrontation that pleased the Yankee Stadium crowd of 45,099. A walk pushed in the run, but Soriano got Asdrubal Cabrera on a fly ball for his 17th save.