MILWAUKEE - The "storm clouds" surrounding rotation issues that eventually arrive for every team, in Yankees general manager Brian Cashman's words, have arrived.
For the third time in four weeks, the Yankees have lost a starter, this time CC Sabathia.
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The lefthander complained of pain in his right knee after Saturday night's start, and a subsequent MRI showed fluid on the knee.
The MRI did not show a meniscus tear, an injury that Sabathia had repaired through surgery in October 2010. But speaking after the Yankees' loss Sunday, he said the feeling is about the same, raising all kinds of red flags.
"I don't know," said Sabathia, 33, when he was asked if feeling the same symptoms worries him. "We'll see what the doctor says tomorrow."
He said the knee was "so swollen" that another MRI will be taken Monday after the knee is drained to "maybe get a better picture," meaning it's possible that something more serious will be found.
"We're hoping it will only be the two weeks," Joe Girardi said, referring to Sabathia's stay on the disabled list.
Sabathia said he felt he "tweaked" the knee a couple of starts ago, but with Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda already down, "I didn't want to say anything, but I'm not helping the team by trying to hide it."
Sabathia allowed four runs, three unearned, and eight hits in 51/3 innings in Saturday night's 5-4 loss to the Brewers, giving up three long home runs and a bevy of hard-hit balls. He is 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA.
In the meantime, Alfredo Aceves, picked up two days before the end of spring training, is the in-house candidate to take Sabathia's rotation spot.
The Yankees broke camp looking as if they had the deepest stable of starters in the American League. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Nova, Masahiro Tanaka and Pineda comprised the starting five and Adam Warren, David Phelps and Vidal Nuño, all beaten out by Pineda for the fifth spot, shifted to the bullpen.
But Nova was lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his elbow in April and Pineda is out at least six weeks, and probably a bit more, with an injury to his teres major muscle, located just beneath his surgically repaired right shoulder.
The Yankees' current rotation now looks like this, should no outside option become available: Aceves, Kuroda, Nuño, Tanaka and Phelps.
"The deepest teams, the deepest organizations end up on top," Mark Teixeira said. "We'll see how deep we are."
Said Derek Jeter: "I haven't seen a team in my career that's gone the whole year and stayed healthy. It's a big loss, but someone else is going to have to step in and do the job while he's gone."
The situation brought to mind comments Cashman made on March 31, a day before his club opened the season in Houston. When asked about the apparent overstock of starting pitching in the organization, he said, "We're hoping we have the protection when the storm comes because it does come; it comes for everybody. Thankfully, the storm clouds have been pushed off for a period of time, but they're coming. It's our job to be ready for it when it comes."