By late Friday night, Francisco Cervelli already had been scheduled for surgery the next morning to repair a fractured hand, Ivan Nova was waiting for the results of an MRI on his aching right elbow -- and yet the Yankees somehow were victorious, again beating the Blue Jays, this time by 6-4.
Cervelli left the game after only five pitches when he was struck on the right fist by a foul tip from the bat of Jays leadoff hitter Rajai Davis. Nova, who had complained of elbow discomfort early on, walked off the mound in the third. But the Yankees shrugged off their most recent misfortune, thanks to four innings of nine-strikeout relief by David Phelps -- the most logical replacement for Nova -- and some timely hitting throughout the lineup.
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"I'm proud of what these guys have done," Joe Girardi said. "Guys keep stepping up."
That's what Cervelli had done after grabbing the starting job out of spring training. Now he's lost for a minimum of six weeks, with the club's top catching prospect, Austin Romine, expected to join the Yankees for Saturday's game against Toronto. Romine, 24, a righthanded hitter, had a slash line of .341/.400/.415 with a homer and four RBIs in 13 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The timing of Cervelli's freak injury could not be worse -- for both himself and the Yankees. Cervelli provided much-needed punch from the right side, batting .269 with three homers and an .877 OPS in 16 games. Usually anchored to the bottom third of the lineup in previous years, Cervelli had been elevated as high as fifth against lefties, as he was again last night.
"It's disappointing," Girardi said, "and I know it's really disappointing for him. For all he's been through, my heart goes out to him. He's going to have to wait a while, but we'll get him back."
As of late Friday night, the prognosis for Nova was less certain. Despite his early discomfort, Nova wanted to go back out for the third inning, and he lasted only two batters before trainer Steve Donohue went to the mound to retrieve him.
Girardi described the pain as being higher up the arm, above the elbow into the triceps, but he wasn't sure if that was good or bad. Any injury involving the elbow always raises the specter of Tommy John surgery.
"We've just got to figure out exactly where it is," Girardi said.
Lyle Overbay tripled home a run and scored on a wild pitch in the fourth to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead and Brett Gardner homered with two outs in the eighth to make it 6-4. After giving up three singles, Mariano Rivera struck out Colby Rasmus with the bases loaded in the ninth to earn his eighth save in eight opportunities.
After Nova labored through his first three starts, compiling a 6.14 ERA, much of the pregame talk focused on his job security. The Yankees have Chien-Ming Wang stashed at Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre on a minor-league deal, but even after two decent starts, Girardi didn't view him as a hypothetical replacement before Nova's injury. He didn't commit to Phelps, either.
"It's not my decision," Phelps said. "But if they want me to do it, I'll be ready."
Kevin Youkilis missed his sixth straight game with back stiffness, and the Yankees will make a determination today if the injury requires a stay on the disabled list. If so, he would be eligible to return May 5. "He's better,'' Girardi said. "He's still not quite there. We'll shoot for [today] and see what happens.'' . . . Mark Teixeira (wrist) still is limited to taking dry swings and has no date for when he might be ready to hit off a tee or soft toss. "It's feeling a little better every day,'' Teixeira said. "But it's taken this long, we don't want to rush it now.''