CC Sabathia appeared equally displeased about making his second trip to the DL this season as he did when he made his first visit in June.
Brad Penner/US PresswireCC Sabathia is 12-3 with a 3.56 ERA this season.
The initial stint was related to a groin (adductor) strain on Sabathia's left side. Although the strain was considered minor, the prevailing thought was that a conservative approach would accomplish two things: prevent the injury from getting worse and, perhaps more importantly, prevent him from compensating in a way that would threaten his golden arm. Sabathia made clear that it was not his preference to go on the DL. In fact, he had not even told the team about his discomfort initially but changed his mind when it persisted during a bullpen session. It seemed in retrospect to be a wise decision by the Yankees to place him on hold for a few weeks. Sabathia was able to return on July 17, his adductor issues were gone and he tossed six shutout innings in his first outing.
This time it is Sabathia's arm that has him on the DL, and naturally the concern level is greater. When a pitcher is required to miss time because of a shoulder or elbow problem, a mild panic sets in. Everyone wonders whether this is the big one, or the beginning of the big one: the injury that could threaten a player's career or at least interrupt it for a significant time. Perhaps even Sabathia was apprehensive because he was hesitant to speak up about his elbow soreness initially. According to ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews, it was Sabathia's wife who made him alert the Yankees' medical staff. Again, this was a wise move, because judging from the level of discomfort Sabathia was experiencing initially -- he was reportedly unable to raise his left arm high enough to reach his hand to his shoulder -- this was not something to ignore.
Despite the obvious concern over the fact that it is Sabathia's throwing elbow which is ailing, there is some good news. An MRI came back negative, and the location of Sabathia's symptoms, according to Matthews, is "in the muscle area in the back of his elbow," not the inner aspect of the joint where the ulnar collateral ligament is located.
Sabathia has already indicated he plans to pitch Aug. 24, the first date he is eligible to return. The fact that the Yankees have not automatically shut him down for a longer period suggests the immediate concerns are minor. Still, even if Sabathia is able to return by that date, his use may be modified in an effort to ensure his health through what the Yankees hope to be an extended postseason. Just how that occurs is unknown, and it may depend in part on a combination of how Sabathia feels and how effective he is in any given outing.
It's no secret that Sabathia is 32 years old and has averaged 235 innings pitched over the past three years. Given his overall throwing mileage and 12 years in the majors, it's fairly remarkable that he hasn't experienced elbow problems before this episode. No one can say for sure whether this is an isolated event or a sign of things to come, but the initial outlook appears favorable.