The Yankees knew the condition of CC Sabathia's surgically repaired right knee could take a downward turn at any time this season. It happened in dramatic fashion Sunday as Sabathia was forced to leave his start against the Indians in the third inning.
"It's something that we've been watching all year long,'' Joe Girardi said. "It reared its ugly head today.''
General manager Brian Cashman said Sabathia is likely headed to the disabled list. Sabathia had surgery on the knee last season after eight starts and also reportedly had procedures in 2006 and 2010. He is earning $23 million this season, $25 million in 2016 and the potential for another $25 million in 2017 if he meets vesting requirements.
The Yankees lost, 4-3, and fell one-half game behind the Blue Jays in the AL East. The Yankees came back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the score on a two-run double by Carlos Beltran in the seventh, but rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor homered off Dellin Betances in the eighth for the winning run that gave the Indians their third win in the four-game series.
Sabathia, who gave up a two-run home run in the first to Carlos Santana, walked two batters, then struck out Yan Gomes for the second out before leaving in the third.
"I felt a little bit of pain warming up [before the game],'' Sabathia said. "I just couldn't kind of finish my pitches like I wanted to. I felt a little hyperextension [in the knee] and then some pain after.''
The 35-year-old Sabathia immediately had an MRI and, although the Yankees did not announce the results, Sabathia said: "Not much changed, it's a bad knee. We have to treat it, see what we can do to try to get me out on the field.''
Sabathia said his concern is "high just because you know it just happened again. Normally I'm able to push through it but today I couldn't. We'll just have to wait and see what happens after a couple of days.''
Sabathia has had the knee drained during the season -- the last time before the All-Star break -- and said he received a cortisone injection earlier this week. "That's the thing with it, there's no fluid, so there's nothing to drain. It's been just kind of a sharp pain, so that's the toughest thing there is. Just kind of wait and rest and see what happens."
Cashman said: "Listen, he's had a bad knee. And he's had a bad knee that we've had to do surgical interventions on. Clearly he's had it drained and he gets some injections every now and then for it. It's an issue here later in his career. But how much of it is going to be an issue as we move forward, I'll have to wait for the doctor to give me some more guidance . . . ''
Sabathia was dejected, saying: "I just want to see how we can fix it or what can I do. What's the next step? It's frustrating 'cause I feel like -- I know; I don't feel -- I know I can pitch at this level, at a high level. It's just a matter of me getting out there and being healthy enough to do it.''
Sabathia said his 4-9 record is indicative of trying to play through his injury. He said his good starts came when he tried to dial it up at the cost of possibly hurting himself.
"Today I couldn't fake it.''