The moment Hiroki Kuroda makes his next start, the Yankees can officially consider themselves out of the woods as far as dodging another major injury.
But the way things have gone on the injury front since spring training started, it's understandable why only the sight of the 38-year-old on the mound will quell those concerns.
Still, the prognosis of a bruised right middle finger was the best anyone could hope for Wednesday night. The righthander left with one out in the second inning after being grazed by a line-drive single in a 7-4 loss to the Red Sox at the frosty Stadium.
"Definitely not what we want to see,'' said Vernon Wells, whose three-run homer in the eighth made it 7-4. "There's enough injuries going around where we don't need that to happen.''
The ballpark, maybe half full at first pitch when the temperature sat at 43 degrees, slowly emptied as the Yankees' offense was held in check until Wells' blast off Alfredo Aceves.
The Yankees are 0-2 for the second straight season. They dropped three straight to the Rays last year.
"It's not unusual to lose two games in a row,'' Joe Girardi said. "I think it becomes somewhat glaring when it's the first two games of the year. But we didn't start off too well last year, either and things turned out OK. I thought we swung the bats really well tonight.''
Kuroda, who left after 41 pitches, said he couldn't say for certain that he would make his next start, Monday in Cleveland. "It's tough to tell,'' said Kuroda, his injured digit in a thick wrap. "But for me I'm going to try to get ready.''
Girardi said a determination would be made in the coming days. "Way too early,'' he said. "We'll see if Friday he can make his normal bullpen session, and then you go from there.''
Kuroda received an X-ray and a CT scan on his finger after being hit by Shane Victorino's screaming liner. The ball clipped the tip of Kuroda's hand that he instinctively shot into the air trying to slow the ball down.
The injury occurred with the Yankees trailing 1-0.
Girardi came out of the dugout along with Yankees trainers to check on Kuroda, the Yankees' most consistent starter last year. After a few warmup pitches, Kuroda hit rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. with a pitch.
After Jose Iglesias failed to move the runners, Kuroda walked Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases, then hit Daniel Nava with a pitch to bring in Bradley Jr. to make it 2-0.
That brought out pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who soon signaled for Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue. Kuroda was replaced by Cody Eppley. The righthander induced a grounder by Dustin Pedroia, resulting in a 6-6-3 double play to end the inning.
"The ball wasn't doing what he needed it to do,'' catcher Chris Stewart said of Kuroda. "It wasn't him, so we knew we had to get him out of there.''
Not that Kuroda, who allowed three hits and a run in the first inning, had been sharp in the bone-chilling cold. "Even before that,'' Stewart said, "he wasn't spot on.''
"We haven't played good enough baseball to win, that's the bottom line,'' Wells said. "We haven't clicked in all three phases of the game. It's just a matter of time before we do, but it would be nice if it happened soon.''