New York Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda will miss his next scheduled start on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles due to hip flexor soreness in his left hip, reports Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger.
Kuroda underwent an MRI, and the results came back "clean," according to Joe Girardi (via McCullough). But Kuroda will be re-examined after the conclusion of the current four-game set against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
The fact that Kuroda will have to be re-evaluated is simply a precautionary measure, but it's certainly something that should worry the Yankees. Simple soreness shouldn't need to be re-evaluated a few days after receiving "clean" results from an MRI. Either Girardi is just saying Kuroda is fine, or there's something bigger at hand.
It's not fair to accuse anybody before more information is released—or before Kuroda misses a second start—but a big-time injury that forces him to miss significant time on the disabled list would be the end of the New York Yankees' playoff hopes for 2013.
The last time Kuroda failed to make 31 starts in a season was back in 2009—his second season in the league with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made 20 starts (21 appearances), compiling a record of 8-7 and a 3.76 ERA. He missed time due to a herniated disc that may have been caused after being struck in the head by a line drive while pitching against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Should the Yankees lose Kuroda, there would be nothing they can do to replace his production—even with the trade deadline approaching. Kuroda has been the best pitcher on the Yankees this season, posting a 1.9 WAR over 17 starts, according to FanGraphs. That WAR makes him the No. 27 starter in baseball, again according to FanGraphs.
Replacing Kuroda's production would be next to impossible. There aren't any minor leaguers in the system that are capable of doing so, and the options on the market aren't exactly eye-popping. Ricky Nolasco and Bud Norris are two names that come to mind, but neither can put up numbers like the Yankees' ace.
That's right, the Yankees' ace. CC Sabathia may be affectionately referred to as the team's ace, but his performance this season has put him a step down in the pecking order. Sabathia has a 4.15 ERA, a 1.8 WAR and has given Girardi more than one reason to worry during many of his 17 starts this season.
Sabathia has the track record to be the team's ace, but there are other pitchers in the organization that can duplicate the peripherals he's produced this season. A 4.15 ERA is pedestrian, as are his 97 strikeouts in 117 innings.
Sabathia has made it difficult for the Yankees to stay in games due to their lackluster offense, whereas Kuroda has given them over a full run more to work with. His ERA of 2.95 ranks him 17th amongst starters with at least 100 innings pitched, per FanGraphs.
A starting rotation of Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, David Phelps and Kuroda's replacement would not be enough to push the Yankees into the playoffs if used for an extended period of time.
Kuroda is valuable because he gives the Yankees a chance to win once every five days, and losing that guaranteed shot at winning would be detrimental to the team moving forward.
For now, this may seem like much ado about nothing. Plenty of starters miss games here or there due to soreness of one kind or another—it's a part of the grind of a 162-game season. But something just doesn't seem to add up here.
Why re-evaluate him if he came back clean? He better be okay for the sake of the Yankees, because they won't be able to make the playoffs without him healthy.