It was a good news/bad news scenario for the New York Yankees on Friday.
According to general manager Brian Cashman, 33-year-old left-hander CC Sabathia will avoid microfracture surgery on his ailing right knee, which is a positive development considering that two weeks ago it looked like the surest solution to repair the significant cartilege damage. However, Sabathia will undergo arthroscopic surgery on July 23, which unfortunately will still end his season.
"He'll get it cleaned up," said Cashman. "Obviously it will end his season and hopefully next year is a different story."
It's difficult to put a positive spin on losing an important part of the starting rotation for the stretch run. However, microfracture surgery would have cast an even darker shadow over Sabathia's health beyond the 2014 season, because there are mixed results in terms of how well athletes are able to bounce back from the procedure.
For example, Greg Oden, a former No. 1 draft pick in the NBA, has been reduced to an end of the bench player whose minutes are limited following microfracture surgery on his knee. In baseball, Matt Kemp had microfracture surgery on his left ankle following the 2013 season. Although he's back and able to handle a regular workload, his playing time has been reduced because he's not playing near the level he was before the procedure.
Texas Rangers left-hander Derek Holland underwent microfracture surgery on his knee back in January after an accident at his home. He's not expected to return until late August or early September. Given their similarities, his progress would have been of utmost interest to the Yankees had it come down to microfracture surgery for Sabathia.
As it stands, it's still a disappointing official end to the season for Sabathia. He put in a lot of work during the offseason to drop weight, not only with an eye toward staying healthy on the baseball field, but to improve his quality of life off the field as well.
As for the Yankees, they'll move forward with four-fifths of their opening day starting rotation on the shelf. In addition to Sabathia, Ivan Nova will miss the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April. Rookie Masahiro Tanaka could be on the same track after being diagnosed with a partially torn ligament in his elbow. He''ll attempt to rehab and won't return until September in a best-case scenario. Meanwhile, Michael Pineda is slowly working his way back from a shoulder injury suffered in May, but there's no set timetable for his return.
Needless to say, pitching will be the focus of Cashman with the trade deadline looming. The Yankees are still in relatively good position at 47-47, which puts them five games behind the division-leading Baltimore Orioles entering play on Friday. That should be their focus even though they are only 3 1/2 games back in the wild card. It would be a longer shot there with six teams piled up ahead of them.
It's an uphill battle in all directions, but no team can weather a storm like the Yankees. We'll see how well they manage it this season.
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