New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia suffered a setback with his ailing right knee this week and there's a growing concern that his condition will force him to miss the remainder of the 2014 season. Sabathia was out on a rehab assignment when he began experiencing some renewed swelling in the knee following his last start. Fluid was drained and an appointment with Dr. James Andrews was scheduled for Monday.
Those are dreaded words within the world of professional sports, so the Yankees will hold their collective breath as they await a new report.
When asked if he thought Sabathia would miss the final three months, manager Joe Girardi already seemed resigned to the possibility becoming reality, simply responding “I think that’s probably fair to say.”
According to Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog, Sabathia has significant damage to the cartilage in his right knee and might require microfracture surgery. If that's the case, it would cast a larger shadow beyond just what Sabathia's status will be in 2014.
With significant cartilage damage, it’s possible Sabathia will need microfracture surgery, a pretty intense procedure that basically attempts to force the body to build new cartilage by drilling small holes into the bone. Several NBA players have had the procedure, including notable (and not necessarily encouraging) examples Amar’e Stoudemire and Greg Oden. In baseball, Matt Kemp had some microfracture work done to his ankle, Derek Holland is still working his way back from microfracture surgery on his knee, and former top prospect Jeff Clement has his career basically derailed by knee problems that he attempted to fix with a microfracture operation.
At the very least, it seems worth wondering whether this could cost Sabathia the rest of his career.
“I think it’s too early to predict that,” Girardi said. “Whenever you have degenerative issues that cause surgery or things like that, there’s always a little question, yeah.”
It's worth noting that Sabathia has a $23 million salary this season and is owed at least another $23 million in 2015 and $25 million in 2016, plus a $5 million buyout of a vesting 2018 option.
As Girardi noted, it's way too early to speculate about Sabathia's future, but the concern is evident for many reasons. Not the least of which is the investment they've made. Sabathia's age, 34, would seemingly be working against him as well. It's just easier for younger athletes to recover regardless of the injury, but microfracture surgery has proven difficult for athletes of all ages to not only return from, but return from to continue playing at a similar level.
We'll know more on Monday about the road Sabathia faces.
We already know the road the Yankees are currently facing. At 42-42 entering play on Friday, they're still within striking distance in the AL East. However, with Sabathia looking less and less like a short term option, they're going to need reinforcements from the outside if they hope to remain in contention.
Masahiro Tanaka's historic first half has been their saving grace, but he's still only an option once every five days. Expect general manager Brian Cashman to spend most of the next four weeks wide awake and working the phones as he attempts to restock his rotation and fill a hole or two in his lineup. His work is definitely cut out for him.
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