Wednesday was a rough day for the New York Yankees, even though they beat the Cleveland Indians to complete a three-game sweep, because their two best pitchers were placed on the disabled list with leg injuries.
CC Sabathia strained his groin during his start Sunday night against the Mets and is expected to miss his last two starts before the All-Star Break.
Andy Pettitte was hit in the leg with a line drive in the fifth inning on Wednesday and fractured his left ankle. He will miss at least two months after being placed on the 60-day DL.
Yankee fans are understandably upset, and many are already thinking about trade options for the team, whether the target be Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, or another starting pitcher.
The losses of the team's best pitchers are obviously upsetting and will have an impact on the performance of the club, but here are six reasons the Bombers will survive Sabathia and Pettitte's injuries and stay at or near the top of the AL East while they are out.
Placing Sabathia on the DL seems more like a cautious (and prudent) move than a necessary one. He will miss two starts before the All-Star Game on July 10: tonight's start at Yankee Stadium against the White Sox and Wednesday's start in St. Petersburg against the Rays.
If Sabathia were to start the first game after the break, he would pitch on Friday, July 13, in the Bronx against the Angels, giving him 20 days rest since his last start on June 24 at Citi Field. However, the Yankees could also hold him back to as late as the 17th against the Blue Jays, giving him 24 days rest.
Either way, Sabathia will get about three weeks off and will only miss two starts. The Yankees (and their fans) would much rather he miss two starts than try to pitch through the pain to reinjure himself.
If Sabathia were to get hurt, this was one of the best times for it to happen.
Because of the Yankees' exceptional play during the last month, they've built themselves a five-game lead in the AL East over Baltimore, a five=game lead in the Wild Card over Baltimore and Los Angeles and a 6.5-game lead over Boston and Tampa Bay.
Even if the Yankees slow down—which they probably would have to, anyway—they have some leeway to regress but can still stay atop the division. Besides, as impressive as the Orioles have been, I would be very surprised if they kept up their 41-34 pace and contended in the American League.
Besides, other than Tampa Bay, the Yankees may still have the best pitching in the division even without Sabathia and Pettitte. Their bullpen has been solid (last night notwithstanding).
The Orioles have pitched well but are still overall unproven. The Red Sox have straightened themselves out but currently have Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz on the DL. And the Blue Jays have lost four starting pitchers in the last two weeks.
So, even if the Yankees start to slow down, they have a cushion to work with.
While the Yankees expect CC Sabathia to return shortly after the All-Star Break, they will still have plenty of time to make a move if they find out that his groin injury is worse than expected.
Plus, while Pettitte won't be able to return until late August at the earliest (he will not be eligible to come off the 60-day DL until Aug. 26), the Yankees will have a better sense of how his ankle is recovering as we get closer to the July 31 trade deadline.
If either of their injuries are worse than the Yankees originally thought, or if the rest of the rotation struggles so much that the front office feels that an addition needs to be made, Brian Cashman has plenty of time to pull the trigger and make a trade.
Because Sabathia is the ace and Pettitte is an all-time great Yankee, many have forgotten the rest of the rotation has been solid for at least the last month.
Ivan Nova is 9-2 on the year and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last five starts.
Hiroki Kuroda has a 3.40 ERA and has gone at least six innings in each of his last six starts, posting a 1.92 ERA during that time.
Phil Hughes has been inconsistent but has shown flashes of greatness in June, including a complete game against the Tigers on June 3 and eight shutout innings against the Indians on Wednesday. He has a 2.71 June ERA.
So, even though the Yankees will be without two of their best pitchers, they still have quality arms capable of keeping the team above water in the meantime.
Including the playoffs, CC Sabathia has thrown more than 245 innings every year since 2007. He's a big guy, but that many innings for so long has got to take a toll on a pitcher's arm. He's only expected to miss two starts, but giving him three weeks off about halfway through the season may end up being beneficial for the Yankees ace come playoff time.
Pettitte's arm hasn't been taxed as much as CC's, but he didn't pitch at all when he was retired for 2011 and only threw 129 innings in 2010. His arm may not be built up enough to handle too many innings this year. For him to be well-rested and effective in October, it may be beneficial for him to rest for a couple of months and keep his arm fresh.
The benefits of having Sabathia and Pettitte hurt would obviously be mitigated if their injuries are worse than expected, but assuming they both come back healthy and symptom-free, resting two of the Yankees' older pitchers may be a positive.
As great as the Yankees' pitching has been over the last month, they are a hitting team.
With all of the questions surrounding the pitching heading into the year, they were going to rely on their offense to begin with, and nothing has changed—but that's OK.
With a lineup beginning with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, they should be primarily an offensive team.
Hopefully Nova, Kuroda and Hughes can enjoy continued success, but at the end of the day, the Yankees' offense is going to propel them into October baseball.