Yankee manager Joe Girardi woke up Wednesday morning feeling good about a team that had played extremely well over the last month. Hours later, he was facing life without CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.
After finding out Sabathia would miss at least two starts with a Grade 1 strain of his left abductor muscle (left groin), Girardi watched Pettitte go down with a fractured left ankle in the fifth inning of a 5-4 win over the Indians.
“It’s not what you’re looking for, I can tell you that,” Girardi said. “When I came to the park, I felt pretty good about the way we have been playing. CC’s hurt and now Andy’s hurt, but as I said no one is going to feel sorry for us and guys have to step up. That’s the bottom line.”
“We just got to weather the storm,” Pettitte said. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for you as far as injuries and stuff like that. We got a lot of good stuff going on here. We got plenty of guys that can do the job. So it’s time to put my pom-poms on and be a cheerleader for six weeks or so.”
Pettitte fractured his ankle with nobody out when Casey Kotchman’s ground ball deflected off his leg. As the ball bounced towards third base, Pettitte struggled to put weight on his foot when he fielded it and fell to the ground.
Girardi, pitching coach Larry Rothchild and the training staff ran out of the dugout to get a look. They watched Pettitte throw a few warm-up pitches and it seemed that would be able to stay in.
But on the next pitch to Lou Marson, he winced in pain at the increased intensity and was taken out.
“I just figured I could figure a way to get through the inning even though I couldn’t push off like I wanted to,” Pettitte said. “I figured I would go the other direction with it, go slower and maybe get some grounders. The first pitch I threw, I pushed off and [it was] just a lot of pain shooting straight down into my foot. So as soon as I did that, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to throw another pitch.”
“I saw him throw a couple of pitches and each pitch got better,” Girardi said. “He said ‘I’m OK, let’s try it. I said ‘OK, let’s try.’ I saw him throw the one pitch and obviously when he had to put a little more intensity into it he kind of hobbled.”
In the sixth, Girardi found out the extent of the injury and in the eighth the Yankees announced Pettitte fractured his left ankle, an injury that will keep on crutches and in a walking boot. They also said the injury would not require surgery because it’s not a complete break and that their estimated timetable for Pettitte’s return is six weeks.
“Your initial reaction is that you’re probably going to have to pull him from the start and you hope he’s going to make his next start,” Girardi said. “I never imagined that he would be in a boot the next time I saw him. It’s scary; it’s frustrating but it’s baseball.”
“It’s frustrating because I’ve been feeling so good,” Pettitte said. “You just want to go out and do your job. We’ve got a lot to be positive about. We’ve been playing well and everyone’s throwing the ball well.”
Until that point, Pettitte had continued to look good in his comeback. He accumulated seven strikeouts in the first four innings while throwing 44-of-64 pitches for strikes.
“He’s been awesome,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “I got a question the other day do you have any plan because of his age to limit his innings. From the front office perspective I really didn’t because he got a late start and he didn’t start until May.
“We’ll get him back and that’s a good thing. It’s not something that he’s gone for the year on and hopefully we’ll have some meaningful games to play in October and we can look back and say he was fresh for it, but we got to obviously win games — a lot of games between now and that point. But he’ll certainly be fresher than he would have been so I try to look for positives in the negatives.”
In the meantime, Freddy Garcia will occupy Pettitte’s rotation spot and will make his first start since April 28 Monday night in Tampa Bay. Garcia was the third reliever used in the fifth, pitched 2 2/3 hitless innings and was the winning pitcher after Robinson Cano hit a two-run home run in the sixth off Ubaldo Jimenez.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.