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Pettitte headed to DL with groin strain

Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte delivers in the

Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte delivers in the first inning at Yankee Stadium. (July 18, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Andy Pettitte is headed to the disabled list after leaving yesterday's start against the Rays in the third inning with a strained left groin.

Pettitte was injured on a pitch to Kelly Shoppach, and catcher Jorge Posada called to the dugout for manager Joe Girardi and trainer Gene Monahan to check on him. Pettitte took a warm-up pitch, then bent over and walked off the field, his next stop the MRI machine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

"I really don't even remember exactly what happened,'' Pettitte said. "I feel like I landed maybe a little awkward on that pitch. I felt like a little burning sensation maybe in there. Just tried to throw the warm-up pitch and felt fine when I threw it . . . But when I tried to bring my leg over, the left leg - it didn't feel good at all.''

The MRI showed a Grade 1 strain - the least severe - but Pettitte seemed resigned to an unwanted vacation of at least 15 days. General manager Brian Cashman said he will be out possibly "four to five weeks."

"Usually, I'll say I can pitch through anything, but it hurt pretty bad,'' Pettitte said. "Hopefully, I'll be feeling great tomorrow. Being pretty realistic, they're pretty cautious here. So we just have to see what happens.''

Pettitte had a similar injury in 2001 but said he doesn't remember much about it, other than the pain. He said he will have to be particularly careful with his rehab because he relies so much on a long stride and also because he's 38 now, not 29.

"Obviously, I'm a lot older and I handle things a little bit better and also realize the big picture,'' he said. "I want to be healthy down the stretch and I want to feel great, so I'm not going to try and rush it back. Just going to try to get well.''

With the team off today, Pettitte's spot in the rotation won't come up until Saturday against Kansas City. Cashman said last night that Sergio Mitre will be activated this week and will make the start.

The Yankees hope they won't need two fill-in starters against the Royals. A.J. Burnett reported no problems long-tossing Sunday after cutting both hands slapping a door in the clubhouse Saturday. At this point, he plans to start Friday.

Pettitte enjoyed one of the best first halves of his career - he entered the game with an 11-2 record and 2.70 ERA - and threw a scoreless inning in Tuesday's All-Star Game in Anaheim.

He was ineffective yesterday, allowing a three-run home run to Carlos Peña during a four-hit first inning, walking two in the second and giving up two one-out hits in the third before leaving with a 3-and-1 count on Shoppach.

David Robertson threw ball four to Shoppach, with the walk charged to Pettitte. But Robertson worked out of the bases-loaded, one-out jam and the Yankees went on to a 9-5 win.

Pettitte's final line: 2 1/3 innings, six hits, three runs, three walks, three strikeouts. It's most likely going to be his final line for a while.

"I was just telling the doctor I forgot how painful and how much discomfort it is to injure this,'' he said. "It was painful out there.''

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