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CC Sabathia unlikely to return to Yankees this season, manager Joe Girardi says

Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia adjusts his cap

Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia adjusts his cap after giving up a solo home run to Houston Astros' L.J. Hoes in the second inning of a baseball game on opening day for the teams Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Houston. Credit: AP / Pat Sullivan

MINNEAPOLIS - You can pretty much forget about seeing CC Sabathia in a Yankees uniform again this season.

Joe Girardi said as much before Friday afternoon's 6-5 victory over the Twins when he discussed the lefthander's swollen right knee, an injury that flared up again after a rehab start Wednesday night in Trenton.

An upcoming visit to Dr. James Andrews July 14 could yield even worse news -- the need for microfracture surgery that not only would cost the 33-year-old the rest of 2014 but perhaps much more time than that.

"I'm sure surgery is possible," Girardi said. "That's always a possibility when you have a degenerative knee. That's a surgery that a lot of players don't want to hear that they need to have. It's a pretty long rehab."

Two days after Sabathia landed on the disabled list May 11, he visited Andrews, who diagnosed what general manager Brian Cashman called "degenerative changes" in his knee cartilage. Sabathia received an injection of cortisone and stem cells, a procedure the Yankees hoped would lead to his return shortly after the All-Star break.

There's no chance of that happening now, and regarding the idea that Sabathia is done for the season, Girardi said, "I think that's probably fair to say."

And the possibility that Sabathia will never pitch for the Yankees again?

"I think it's too early to predict that," Girardi said. "But whenever you have degenerative issues that cause surgery or things like that, there's always a little question."

Sabathia is in the middle of a five-year, $122-million deal that will pay him through 2016 and has a $25-million vesting option for 2017.

Microfracture surgery, performed in order to stimulate cartilage growth in areas with cartilage damage, is not common among baseball players.

Corey Hart, activated Friday by the Brewers, missed all of 2013 after having the surgery performed twice. Grady Sizemore, a teammate of Sabathia's with the Indians, had it done in 2010.

Many more basketball players have had the procedure, including Amar'e Stoudemire, Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady and Greg Oden.

Because of a packed schedule, Andrews won't be able to see Sabathia for more than a week, leaving the Yankees in limbo to a degree.

From the time he went to the disabled list in May, though, more than a few in the organization have believed that having an effective Sabathia at any point this season was a long shot, making the acquisition of a starting pitcher -- preferably two of them -- before the July 31 trade deadline a necessity.

Even if Sabathia's rehab had gone smoothly, the Yankees had no idea how good he would be. When he went to the DL, he was 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA, looking similar to the pitcher who finished 2013 with a 14-13 record and a 4.78 ERA.

Still, the Yankees would prefer a struggling Sabathia to the current back end of their rotation. Vidal Nuño and Chase Whitley have done well at times, but on Friday, Whitley again showed the danger in sticking with the pair.

Whitley, who was 3-0 in his first seven starts, has allowed 17 runs and 27 hits in 101/3 innings in his last three starts, forcing the Yankees to have to go to the bullpen much earlier than they would like.

Neither Nuño nor Whitley provides the near assurance of at least six innings every time out that Sabathia generally does, significant for a bullpen that has been needed for 10 or more outs far too many times thus far.

New York Sports