Entering his start against the White Sox last Friday, Andy Pettitte was cruising through the early goings of the 2010 season. He took the mound that night at 3-0 through four starts, with a 1.29 ERA. He had allowed just 31 baserunners through 28 IP, hadn't surrendered a home run, and was holding opposing batters to anemic .216/.287/.258 line.
Clearly Pettitte was due to come back to earth a bit, and that he did. The White Sox touched him up for four runs in the first two frames. He settled down from there, shutting the Pale Hose down the rest of the way and exiting with the score tied after six innings. It was his first non-quality start of the season.
Pettitte made his next start yesterday, and while he held the O's to a lone run, he pitched in and out of trouble all afternoon. He allowed eight baserunners through five, and was the beneficiary of a pair of inning ending double plays. His outing was done after just 77 pitches.
While I certainly won't complain about Pettitte's result in either game, both Yankee wins, but the two starts share a common bond beyond not measuring up to the standards of Pettitte's first four starts. In warming up for last Friday's outing, Pettitte felt stiffness in his forearm. Clearly, it wasn't enough for him to miss the start, and the Yankees responded by lightening his workload between Friday and yesterday. He had pain again during his warm up yesterday, this time more in the elbow and triceps area than in the forearm.
Pettite underwent an MRI following his exit. The results are encouraging for the most part, showing no structural damage, just inflammation in the elbow. As precautionary measure, Pettitte will likely miss his next scheduled start; Brian Cashman implied as much before the test results were even known. At this stage in the season, there's no reason to push it. Pettitte is going to be needed in September and October (and hopefully November too); may as well give him the rest and rehab he needs now.
The next scheduled start for Pettitte is Tuesday in Detroit. Relievers Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre are candidates for spot duty. Scranton starters Ivan Nova and Romulo Sanchez are on the 40 man roster, though the Christian Garcia injury could conceivably open a spot for other starters Zach McAllister, Jason Hirsch, or Dustin Moseley. Currently, McAllister, Moseley, and Sanchez are lined up Monday through Wednesday.
Most likely though, the start will go to Mitre, and I think it should. As the long man in a seven man bullpen, Mitre hasn't been getting much work, particularly with how well the Yankee starters have been. Alf, coincidentally or not, suffered from arm issues and ineffectiveness after his spot start in Minnesota last July, and right now he's too important a piece in the bullpen to take him out of play for the upcoming Boston series.
Of course Pettitte's elbow issue is the latest in a string of bumps and bruises for the Yankees over the past week: Jorge Posada's knee and now his calf, Curtis Granderson's groin, potentially Alex Rodriguez' knee, Mariano Rivera's side, etc. There are rumblings throughout the media and blogosphere about the Yankees collective age, or even more tenuously, the SI Jinx.
As for me, I'm far from panicking at this point. Aside from Granderson's groin pull, none of these appear to be major issues, and since Granderson is the only one of the bunch on the right side of thirty, there's likely to be less concern about him moving forward. As for the others, these are the occupational hazards of professional athletes in their mid-thirties. None of this should be surprising or alarming. Yes, the Yankees have been extremely lucky that all these key contributors have remained relatively healthy through the years. But as unlikely as it is for all of these veteran players to avoid major injury year after year, it's equally unlikely that all will simultaneously suffer major setbacks.
And for that matter, all of these guys have dealt with injuries at one point or another, most within recent years. Posada missed nearly all of 2008 and spent a month on the DL last year. A-Rod spent time on the DL in 2008 and missed the first six weeks of last season. Mo seems to need to shutdown for a series here or there at least once a year; don't you remember his "cranky shoulder" early last September? Pettitte has dealt with elbow issues since early in his career, so yesterday's events aren't necessarily the product of his advanced age. None of this is anything new.
With an older roster like that of the Yankees, injuries are always going to be a looming concern. But there's nothing that has happened in the past several days that should ratchet up the level of concern all that much. If anything, perhaps we should be relieved that everything appears to be a minor issue. Of course, with the team currently sitting at 19-8 with the second best record and run differential in baseball, the tabloids need something to create alarm.
(Photo from Getty Images)