Not often does a first-place team playing as well as the New York Yankees have been have cause for concern. But the Yankees do.
They lost their top two starting pitchers to injuries on consecutive days last week: CC Sabathia's groin muscle flared up during a bullpen session on Tuesday and Andy Pettitte suffered a broken bone in his left ankle when he was hit by a batted ball on Wednesday.
The Yankees lost their next two games, to the Chicago White Sox, but still stood 16 games over .500 and four games up in the American League East. They are hoping Sabathia's injury will cost him only two starts and he can return in two weeks. Pettitte's injury is more serious. He is expected to miss a minimum of six weeks and probably more like eight weeks.
"I knew it hurt, but I've been hit in the shin and the ankle before," Pettitte said. "You give it a little time, walk it off, figure it'll go away. But it didn't go away."
Together, Pettitte and Sabathia are 12-6 with an aggregate 3.37 earned-run average. Opponents are hitting only .240 against them.
The rest of the Yankees' starters are 24-18 with a 4.36 ERA and a .273 opponents' batting average.
The Yankees had already lost the touted newcomer Michael Pineda, whom they traded for over the winter, to season-ending shoulder surgery. And veteran closer Mariano Rivera was lost for the season following knee surgery.
If any other team loses two top-of-the-rotation starters for an extended period of time and a closer like Rivera, they might get some sympathy. Not the 27-time World Series champion Yankees, as manager Joe Girardi knows.
"Nobody is going to feel sorry for us," he said.
Part of that is because the Yankees have the payroll flexibility and stocked farm system to trade for another good starter.
Before the July 31 trade deadline, the Yankees could be suitors for some of the hottest pitchers on the market – Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs and Zack Grienke of the Milwaukee Brewers.
For now, though, they are planning to solve their problems from within their organisation, turning to the veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia from the bullpen and calling up Adam Warren from the minor leagues. However, Warren was pounded for six runs, including two homers, while getting only seven outs in a 14-7 loss Friday in his major league debut against the White Sox.
The Yankees have one of the best offences in baseball. They will need it, given their pitching deficiencies.
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