The New York Yankees have announced that left-handed starting pitcher CC Sabathia (2-2, 3.81 ERA) has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 5, with a left groin strain. Fellow lefty Phil Coke has been called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take Sabathia’s spot on the 25-man roster.
Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi told reporters, including YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits, that Sabathia initially felt pain in the fourth inning of his last start. He didn’t say anything until after the game. A precautionary MRI revealed the injury.
Right-hander Ivan Nova is expected to fill in for Sabathia in the starting rotation. With flamethrower Aroldis Chapman set to return early next week, Coke’s stint with the Yankees may be a brief one.
With the Yankees sitting in the American League East’s cellar, losing Sabathia for an extended stretch hurts. Sabathia pitched one of his best games in years this past Wednesday, keeping the Baltimore Orioles off the scoreboard for seven innings.
As noted by the New York Daily News, that start was Sabathia’s longest scoreless outing since April 7, 2013, when he threw seven shutout innings against the Detroit Tigers. In the immediate, it was the first time a Yankees starter won a game in over a week.
“He worked both sides of the plate, his cutter was in…tonight is the best his changeup has been, man, in a while,” catcher Brian McCann said to Marakovits about Sabathia’s outing. “He had his sinker going, backdoor slider — he just had everything working tonight, got some key double plays, and made some pitches when he had to.”
Before Sabathia’s start, the Yankees were in the midst of a six-game losing streak.
“That’s what he does, he’s such a competitor and we wanted him on the mound tonight to stop the bleeding,” McCann added.
Wednesday’s start was a stark contrast from Sabathia’s performance the past four seasons. Injuries, age, and diminished stuff have turned the six-foot-six left-hander into a roughly league average pitcher. Since 2013, Sabathia has averaged just seven wins, 141 innings, and a 4.93 ERA.
However, with Luis Severino (0-4, 6.31 ERA), Michael Pineda (1-3, 6.33 ERA), and Nathan Eovaldi (1-2, 5.46 ERA) all struggling, an effective Sabathia was key to the Yankees’ success.
Coke, 33, is making his return to the Yankees organization. He debuted with the team as a bullpen arm in 2008, posting a minuscule 0.61 ERA in 12 appearances. The following season, Coke became a reliable, full-time part of the Yankees’ bullpen, going 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA through 60 innings (72 appearances).
After the Yankees won the World Series that year, Coke was shipped to the Detroit Tigers as part of a three-team deal that brought Curtis Granderson to New York. In five seasons with the Tigers, Coke mostly pitched out of the bullpen, compiling a 17-24 record with a 4.25 ERA through 299 appearances (15 starts).
After his stint in the Motor City, Coke bounced around the league. Since 2015, Coke has signed minor league deals with the Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, and Atlanta Braves. However, he only appeared in the majors with the Cubs and Blue Jays.
The Braves cut Coke late in Spring Training, and he signed with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball in early April. However, just a few weeks later, the Yankees signed Coke to a minor league deal and assigned him to Triple-A.
In two appearances (one start) with the RailRiders, Coke went 2-0 without allowing an earned run. He struck out eight batters in seven innings of work.
Injuries have come at a bad time for the Yankees. Earlier this week, the team placed designated hitter Alex Rodriguez on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring. While A-Rod is hitting just 0.194 this season, he leads the team with five HRs and was beginning to heat up. In the Yankees’ six games prior to Tuesday’s game against the Orioles, Rodriguez had six hits in his previous 14 at-bats.
Outfielder Brett Gardner (elbow) is currently listed day-to-day.
[Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images]