It’s a sad week for Yankee Nation. Not only is CC Sabathia out of the starting lineup with a groin injury, but now starter Andy Pettitte is out after a line drive fractured his ankle. It’s estimated that Pettitte won’t return until September.
Two starting pitchers down in one week – think manager Joe Girardi is managing a bottle of antacids right about now?
Pettitte, 40 years old, was bringing the fire against Cleveland Wednesday night, allowing only two runs on three hits and one walk. He had struck out seven of fifteen. Then, in the top of the 5th inning, Casey Kotchman hit a laser-like line drive into Pettitte’s lower left shin (see a video of the line drive to Pettitte’s ankle here). Pettitte took a step towards the ball and went down on the infield grass.
Pettitte didn’t think much of the injury at first and stayed in the game. But as soon as he threw his next game pitch, “I just had an awful lot of pain running all the way down to my foot,” he said. Out he went. Word from the Yankees is that Pettitte suffered a fracture of his left fibula, the smaller of the leg bones which connect with the ankle.
Pettitte is a left hander, so an injury to the left ankle is far more trouble than an injury to the right. All lefties use their left foot to push off the mound. The left foot pivots during the wind-up and release, which puts enormous stress on the foot, ankle and leg. If all of the parts aren’t cooperating 100%, it will impact his precision, which is one thing Pettitte has in spades.
At the moment, the Yankees plan on moving Freddy Garcia into rotation and calling up Adam Warren from the Scranton triple-A team for a few starts.
The breakdown on Pettitte’s injury
The fibula is the smaller of the long bones in the lower leg. It forms joints with the longer bone of the leg (the tibia) and the talus in the ankle. The Yankees medical staff reports that Pettitte’s injury is not a “displaced” fracture (meaning a clean break), so Pettitte won’t need surgery. He’ll be in a protective boot and walk on crutches until his shin and ankle heal. Ankle fractures are a very significant injury for athletes and without proper healing and rehabilitation, the chance of re-injury, especially at 40, can be significant.
When he can stand without pain, Pettitte will start physical therapy, which may include muscle strengthening activities, balance activities, massage, ultrasound therapy, or hydrotherapy, followed by a graduated return to pitching. Most likely you’ll see Pettitte pitch in Scranton for a few games 6-7 weeks from now as he re-conditions his leg and ankle (get your tickets now!)
Pettitte, who has a 243-141 career record, is in his 14th season with the Yanks. With Pettitte out, Derek Jeter is now the only Yankee on the field from the club’s Core Four of players who won four World Series titles from 1996-2000.
As of today, the Yanks are 1st place in the AL East, with Baltimore 5 games behind and Boston 6 games behind. With Pettitte out for 8 weeks and Sabathia out through the All Star break, what do you think the Yanks chances are of holding onto their lead?