By RICK FREEMAN, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained groin before New York's rotation took another hit when fellow lefty Andy Pettitte broke his left ankle on a line drive.
Sabathia is expected to miss his next two starts after sustaining the injury Sunday against the Mets, while Pettitte will be gone for at least six weeks with an injury that the team said will not require surgery. Pettitte was hit by a ball off the bat of Cleveland's Casey Kotchman in the fifth inning Wednesday.
"Been a bad day for left-handers today," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians, 5-4.
General manager Brian Cashman said Sabathia felt a twinge in the muscle on the inside of his left leg in the fourth inning of Sunday's win over the Mets. He didn't tell anyone about it until he still felt discomfort following a bullpen session Tuesday as he prepared for his next start.
"I wanted to go out and pitch Friday, but it's early in the season and I want to be healthy," Sabathia said.
Sabathia said he completed his bullpen session and the injury didn't alter his throwing motion, though "it didn't feel good."
Sabathia has been durable throughout his 12 seasons — this is only his third trip to the DL, following two with Cleveland. The most recent one was six years ago, when he missed the first month of the season because of a right oblique strain. He won the AL Cy Young the following year and the Indians came one win away from taking the AL pennant. They then traded Sabathia the following season.
Girardi says the Yankees expect to have Sabathia, who is 9-3 with a 3.45 ERA, back shortly after the All-Star break. Longtime starter Freddy Garcia was expected to return to the rotation in place of the Sabathia, though he had to come in to pitch Wednesday after Pettitte left in the top of the fifth inning.
Garcia has been working out of the bullpen following an ineffective start to the season.
"Our belief is that it's only going to be two starts," Girardi said of Sabathia.
The Yankees had lousy luck with pitching health this season even before Wednesday's problems.
All-Star newcomer Michael Pineda is out for the season after having shoulder surgery — before he even pitched in a big league game following an offseason trade from Seattle. And closer Mariano Rivera tore his ACL and damaged his meniscus when his foot caught near the outfield wall while he was catching fly balls during batting practice before a game in Kansas City.
Despite all that, the Yankees have won seven of their last 10 games and lead the tough AL East.
"We have a pretty experienced club," Girardi said. "We lost the greatest closer of all time, we were able to respond."
Then Pettitte got hurt, taking away a significant part of the Yankees' margin for error.
Sabathia, meanwhile, has been an anchor for the Yankees. His 105 strikeouts lead the team and his 8.8 per nine innings are best among the team's starters — and better than all but relievers Boone Logan and Cory Wade. This is his first trip to the DL with the Yankees.
"You just can't take a chance with him," Pettitte said. "He's our horse."
Sabathia was hoping to miss only one start and avoid going on the DL. If it had been September or October in the midst of a pennant race, that likely would have been the case. But in June and with the Yankees in first place, general manager Brian Cashman said there's no need for the Yankees to put their ace at risk of aggravating the injury.
"It was a one-way conversation," Cashman said. "I did all the talking. I know what he wants to do, but this is what we're going to do."