By Tony Mangia
Pettitte Out Until September
Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte took their MRI exams yesterday and and the results were not encouraging--more so for Pettitte. A-Rod was diagnosed with a low-grade strain of the lower left calf and could be out until the weekend. All of Pettitte's early optimism regarding his left groin pull was just blind confidence. The persistent injury could have him sidelined until mid-September and with pitcher Phil Hughes' inning time clock winding down, manager Joe Girardi might be looking at his minor-league system for help.
CC Sabathia won a league-leading 16th game against the Detroit Tigers, but his great performance can't hide the undercurrent of concern with the Yankee starters. According to Girardi's outlined plan, Hughes will cease pitching the regular season after 170 innings. Hughes has 134 2/3 innings and could reach his limit with up to three weeks left in the season. Pettitte should return around the same time, but his return could be tenuous? This could create a rotation nightmare with the Yanks looking down the double-barrel of playoff-hopefuls Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox in 10 of the final 13 games.
The other New York starters, A.J. Burnett and Javier Vasquez continue their erratic ways and don't bolster any confidence. Alfredo Aceves--a possible starter--who continues to pitch in Double-A will be evaluated for yet another rehab outing and castle-in-the-sky return. Girardi might decide to pull Hughes early in his remaining games--not a wise decision considering the light and thin bullpen--or promote some 20-something from Triple-A to help the Yankees down the stretch.
GM, Brian Cashman, keeps repeating a weird mantra this year. Cashman keeps reassuring everyone, "We do not have to win the division to make the playoffs." The Yankees remain tied with Tampa for the division lead and Boston keeps hanging around at 5 1/2 back. If Cashman wants to take the race down to the final days of the regular season, he sure has the right mindset. It might come down to a Bucky Dent moment in the 163rd OR 164th game to figure out who's the division champ? Cashman's arithmetic is correct but, in baseball's toughest division, there is still only one bridesmaid.
RETURN TO SENDER
Is the Yankee's new DH, Lance Berkman, having the worst inaugural two weeks in baseball history? A .170 average, costly errors, boos and clipping Alex Rodriguez with a line drive are just the start of the troubles for Fat Elvis. It must have really hunka-hunka burned when former-Yankee Johnny Damon returned to Yankee Stadium and got a rousing welcome from the fans and a squish from that noted hugger A-Rod, himself. Damon probably misses his old friend--the right field seats in Yankee Stadium--and despises his agent, Scott Boras, for his tough negotiating stance that drove him from pinstripes to Tiger stripes. It's hard to remember when he was a Red Sock.
IT'S STILL GIANTS STADIUM
Eli Manning christened the turf at the "New Meadowlands Stadium" with about a gallon of his own blood in Monday's exhibition beatdown of the Jets. Jet fans slightly outnumbered Giant fans in the PSI's, but it still had a Big Blue feel. Even some wise-ass Giant fan--in an Amani Toomer jersey--got into Fireman Ed's grill. It was the first time I ever saw the Jets' mascot keep his mouth shut. The stadium looks great and when I have about sixty dollars for a couple of hot dogs and some beers, I'll go to Ruth Chris for a T-bone.