New York Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman spoke to ESPN ‘s Buster Onley on his podcast Monday. The news was not good for the Yankees and their already depleted starting rotation. Cashman announced that starter and, some would say, former ace C.C. Sabathia will be out six weeks with the knee injury that sent him on the disabled list on May 11. Cashman gave July 1 as a possible time for Sabathia’s return adding that six weeks was actually optimistic due to the damage to the southpaw’s right knee.
“If we predict anything before six weeks, then we’re probably setting ourselves up for disappointment,” Cashman said.
Sabathia’s last start on May 10 ended in a 5-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, a game in which the starter allowed three home runs to the opposition. It was afterwards that Sabathia, 33, complained of the soreness in his knee prompting the team to not only put him on the disabled list but also send him to see the famed Dr. James Andrews who has been working with most of the pitchers that have had elbow problems this season.
It was determined that Sabathia had broken down cartilage in his knee which was the cause of all the pain, swelling and fluid build up the pitcher had been experiencing. Andrews performed an excruciatingly painful procedure on Sabathia, a stem cell injection. A procedure so painful that it left the lefty on crutches.
Sabathia is not allowed to put pressure on the knee for quite sometime and his rehabiliation will have to begin with exercises in a pool to keep weight off the knee. He will then start strengthening exercises on land and eventually return to the mound.
Sabathia is not the only pitcher the Yankees have lost this season. Right-hander Ivan Nova is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Fellow right-hander Michael Pineda, who was the Yankees’ fifth starter, was suspended for ten games for using pine tar during a game against the Boston Red Sox. Although Pineda’s suspension ended he has not yet returned to the mound having sustained a back strain while practicing during his suspension. The Yankees do not expect Pineda to return for another three weeks.
Without three of their original five starting pitchers, what are the Yankees going to do next? The team is not going to make a trade yet, at least not before the June 5 draft, according to Cashman who said,
“I personally believe it’s virtually impossible to get anything done of significance prior to the draft. And it seems to be even harder this year because of the scarcity of talent. That’s why when you break spring training, you want to stay as healthy as possible until the draft because your flexibility only comes from within, and you hope your depth as an organization will allow you to tread water better.”
The Yankees are currently in first place in the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox not far behind. As Cashman mentioned they have to hope that they have enough depth in the organization to sustain them until they can make a trade or get back Sabathia and Pineda. With rookie Masahiro Tanaka and 39-year old veteran Hiroki Kuroda leading a rotation that includes three unproven, new starters it might be difficult for the Yankees to maintain their position in the A.L. East.
Behind Tanaka and Kuroda are right-hander David Phelps and left-hander Vidal Nuno who have been promoted from their original bullpen roles and rookie right-hander Chase Whitley who was just recently called up from Triple-A. Whitley made his major league debut Thursday during the Subway Series against the Yankees’ cross-town rivals the New York Mets. Despite throwing 74 pitches in 4.2 innings, Whitley did well. He did not allow a run, giving up only two hits, two walks and striking out four. The Yankees won that game 1-0. His next start is this week against the Chicago Cubs.
Even with their make-shift rotation Cashman believes that while it will be challenging, the Yankees will be able to fight and keep their first place position in the A.L. East.
“The AL East is as tough as they get. All the teams in the division have a great deal of talent and have dealt with a great deal of injuries. We’re all still bunched together. It’s a constant battleground as managers, general managers try to move the chess pieces to stay in the race.”
It’s true that the other A.L. East teams, along with too many other teams around the league, have suffered a lot of injuries in 2014 helping to keep the playing field on a somewhat even keel. Yet with no definitive time table for Sabathia’s return and Pineda out until mid-June, the Yankees’ are going to have to hope that their yet to be proven, new rotation can pick up the slack and keep them in first place.