With Jeff Karstens making his first start of the season (and just the seventh of his major league career) after a stay on the disabled list due to elbow soreness, Hideki Matsui on the DL, Jorge Posada out with a bruised thumb, and Johnny Damon out with back and hamstring soreness, the Yankees were effectively playing yesterday's game with one hand tied behind their back, thus their eventual 7-5 loss was hardly a shock. Rather, the Yankees did well to score five runs against Josh Beckett, who came into the game having allowed just one run in each of his first three starts of the year. The bullpen contributed 3 2/3 scoreless innings--the highlight being Sean Henn's three-pitch strikeout of David Ortiz. And Damon, pinch-hitting for a still-hitless Wil Neives, Melky Cabrera, Derek Jeter, and Bobby Abreu each had good at-bats against a gas-throwing Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. Cabrera worked a one-out, four-pitch walk to give Jeter and Abreu a chance to tie game. Unfortunately, Jeter took the most hitable pitch of his six-pitch at-bat for a called strike, and Abreu flied out to the warning track in center to end the game, leaving Mr. Clutch, Alex Rodriguez (2 for 4 with a double and an RBI single) stranded in the on-deck circle.
This gives me a good occasion to update the Yankees' laundry list of injuries and resultant roster and lineup changes:
Chris Britton was optioned to Scranton to make room for Karstens, meaning Colter Bean remains on the roster, though he did not appear again yesterday. Kevin Thompson, who doubled and made a nice catch against the Monster in left yesterday, will likely go down when Hideki Matsui is activated tomorrow. Bean will then likely be optioned when Chien-Ming Wang is activated for the start on Tuesday, which Wang was cleared to make after throwing 55 pitches in the bullpen in Tampa yesterday.
As per the above, Damon did not start yesterday due to general back pain, which he says he first felt while playing on the turf in Minnesota, but had subsided during the recent homestand only to be aggravated on a catch he made in Friday night's game. According to Damon, he's been having problems with his legs all season, and the back pain and leg pain are often related for him. Damon did pinch-hit in the ninth yesterday, working Papelbon for seven pitches before ultimately grounding out, and is expected to start tonight. However, one wonders if, with Hideki Matsui coming off the DL tomorrow, the Yankees might keep Melky in the lineup in Damon's place for the two games they play on turf in Tampa.
Also per the above, Jorge Posada came out of Friday night's game after his left thumb was bruised by an Andy Pettitte pitch and did not play yesterday, though it turns out he was available if needed. He won't start tonight either, but will again be available as a pinch-hitter. His thumb is swollen, but x-rays were negative and it bothers him less to hit than to catch. Josh Phelps warmed up Scott Proctor and Luis Vizcaino in the bullpen on Friday night in order to serve as an emergency catcher if needed. Wil Nieves, meanwhile, failed to execute a sac bunt in yesterday's game, but reached on a Mike Lowell throwing error then came around to score. It was the first and still only time in Nieves's Yankee career that one of his plate appearances didn't result in an out.
Mike Mussina threw 30 pitches in the bullpen in Tampa yesterday and will throw again on Tuesday, hoping to reach 50 pitches. The Yankees hope he'll be ready to make a rehab start on Friday and, if all goes well, he could rejoin the rotation when the Yankees travel to Texas, likely starting the final game of that series on May 3. Bobby Murcer is expected to join the team in Texas as well.
An MRI on Carl Pavano's elbow revealed a mild strain on Thursday. He threw off flat ground yesterday and reported continued tightness in the elbow, but is expected to throw again on Monday. He's still traveling with the team.
Humberto Sanchez had Tommy John surgery on Wednesday. He is the third Yankee minor leaguer to undergo elbow ligament surgery since the end of last season, the others being Mark Melancon, who had Tommy John over the winter, and J. Brent Cox, who had a less severe ligament repair at the end of Spring Training. This could ultimately be good news for Sanchez, who's had elbow problems most of his professional career. The hope now is that those problems will be a thing of the past once he's fully recovered from this surgery. There's no guarantee of that, of course, and he'll likely spend all of 2008 building back his arm strength, but the Yankees have enough minor league pitching to be patient with his recovery.