With two outs in the fifth inning, the night's result suddenly became a secondary story as far as the Yankees' long-term prospects are concerned.
That was when Andy Pettitte, who had felt his upper back "completely lock up" in the fourth inning, experienced the same sensation again.
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The Yankees, who lost to the Mariners, 3-2, at the Stadium, later announced the injury as a "tight left trapezius muscle,'' a muscle in the upper shoulder, neck and back area.
Pettitte, who departed trailing 2-1 after allowing two runs, four hits and three walks, said "the doc right now thinks it's just a muscle spasm'' and "nothing's hurting.'' Still, the 40-year-old lefthander said "I'm not sure'' whether he'll be able to take his next turn in the rotation.
No tests were performed on Pettitte, and Girardi said, "I don't think Andy's too bad.'' But he didn't try to downplay it, either, especially considering Pettitte (4-3, 3.83), who argued to stay in against the Mariners, was scratched from his April 14 start because of back spasms. "The other one was the lower back. That's a lot different than what this is,'' Girardi said. "But he is 40 years old and we're probably going to go through this.''
Adding to the last-thing-they-needed department, Chris Stewart left after the seventh, feeling something in his left groin, Girardi said, as he ran from second to third. Stewart underwent an MRI late Thursday night, the results of which weren't immediately available.
There's a good possibility that the Yankees will have to make some kind of a move for their catching situation, already thin with Francisco Cervelli on the disabled list with a broken right hand. Bobby Wilson, currently with Triple-A, has big-league experience, but a move would have to be made to put him on the 40-man roster.
"You just have to move forward. That's the bottom line,'' said Girardi, who might have thought the injury bug was turning in the other direction with the return of Curtis Granderson earlier in the week. "Injuries are part of the game and some years you're going to have more than others. We have a few and there's no excuses. You have to find a way to get it done.''
Somewhat remarkably, the Yankees (25-16) have been getting it done this season. But not Thursday night, when they stranded 10 and went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Pettitte said he felt fine in the bullpen warming up but experienced issues in his upper back in the fourth inning. It went away but, he said, "locked up completely'' again after his first pitch of the fifth to Jason Bay, whom he struck out. He struck out Kyle Seager, too, but then was pulled.
"It's a grind right now,'' Pettitte said, speaking for himself and his injury-plagued team. "You see Stew pull up [in the seventh]. The guys are battling and you hate to see it. I can't stand it that I wasn't able to stay out there and give us a good start and give us a chance to get the lead in that game.''