Let me start by saying this: There is no way to spin this as a good thing. CC Sabathia is on the disabled list for the second time this season, and it’s an arm injury that he’s never experienced in the past. The long-term concern might be minimal, but there’s obviously some level of concern about a staff ace experiencing elbow discomfort. Even if he misses only two more starts this season, that’s still two more than the Yankees would have liked.
So, no, it’s not a good thing that Sabathia is skipping tonight’s start and spending the next 11 days on the disabled list.
But that doesn’t mean there can’t be unwanted and unintended upside. In the name of positive thinking, here are two things to consider as David Phelps prepares to pitch in Sabathia’s place for tonight’s series opener against the Rangers.
Sabathia could use the break
The Yankees ace hasn’t thrown fewer than 230 innings in a season since 2006. Counting the postseason, he’s thrown more than 250 innings in four of the past five seasons, and he just barely missed that mark last year. Two weeks off now, plus those two weeks off in early July might leave Sabathia’s arm feeling as fresh as he can remember it down the stretch.
“I think it could be good for him just because of what he’s had to throw the last five or six years,” Joe Girardi said. “I think it could physically be good for him. … I think he understands why (Cashman) did it, but the competitive nature in CC is, ‘I can fight through everything,’ and that, ‘I’m going to perform at a high level.’ That’s probably what has made him so great. You think about all the innings he’s logged in his career, the years that he’s given 260 innings — which a lot of guys aren’t able to. It’s the competitive spirit in him.”
Hard to convince Sabathia, though, that there might be a payoff down the stretch.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I don’t want to keep taking two weeks off and saying it’s going to pay off down the line. We need to get there first.”
Phelps could use the opportunity
Regardless of what happens tonight, David Phelps has emerged this season. He’s pitched well enough to suggest he can play a role for the Yankees well into the future, but exactly what role he should play is still a bit of a mystery. This will be only Phelps eighth start of the year, and half of those have come in the minor leagues.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed about my routine is I was getting loose a lot quicker,” Phelps said. “Last year I would start about 30 minutes before game time. The first start I made this year, I went out 30 minutes before game time and I was ready within 15 minutes before the game started, so I was just trying to figure out how I was going to warm up now. I just go out there like I was coming out of the bullpen.”
Phelps might have a future in the pen. He could be a long man. Could be a setup man. He could stay in this sort of swing role. Or he could pitch his way into a regular rotation job, but the Yankees need to see him do it at this level. His last two starts were dominant outings in Double-A and Triple-A, but tonight the Yankees will see how he does against one of the better lineups in the league. There’s information to be gained here, and there’s value in that.
“(I) learned that I’m capable of more than starting,” Phelps said. “I hadn’t (been a reliever) in the minor leagues. I’m just proving to myself that I can be more than just a starter. I’ve made myself a little more versatile. … When I go out there as a starter, I know I’m out there for more than one or two innings — well, I’m supposed to be out there for more than one or two innings — so I kind of plan my game a little differently than thinking about just the next hitter. I can manage the lineup a little differently and just kind of go about it that way.”
Associated Press photo