The ball struck Andy Pettitte's left leg in the fifth inning Wednesday, a little more than a month into his comeback, and a few hours after teammate CC Sabathia was placed on the disabled list.
But New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi initially thought little of the injury to Pettitte, caused by Cleveland Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman's line drive single.
"Shoot, gonna have to make a change," Girardi said he thought at the time.
It would be a lot bigger change than the Yankees expected.
Pettitte, nine starts into his comeback from retirement and 12 days after his 40th birthday, fractured his lower left fibula. He will need a minimum of six weeks to heal and could be out for at least two months, general manager Brian Cashman said.
Within a few hours, the Yankees had lost two of their top starters.
"Bad day for left-handers today," Girardi said. "Guys are gonna have to step up."
Before the game, the Yankees announced Sabathia would miss at least two starts with a Grade 1 strained left groin, an injury he first sustained during his Sunday night start against the Mets. Sabathia didn't immediately inform the team of his injury, opting to throw his Tuesday bullpen session, but it flared up again and the club sent him for a MRI, which revealed the strain.
"I knew it was hurting," Sabathia said of the strained muscle, which he said only bothers him when he lifts his leg to pitch. "I just wanted to see if I could go out and pitch."
Girardi said the club could have rested Sabathia (9-3, 3.45 ERA) for a start instead of opting for the DL, but decided to play it safe and take advantage of the approaching All-Star break.
"We feel that after the All-Star break he'll be back," Girardi said. "We'll be a little cautious when he comes back and we'll ask him, but Dr. (Chris) Ahmad said that when you get into 10 or 15 days, that's going to heal and should not be an issue."
As he stood at his locker on crutches after the game, Pettitte offered a weak smile as he tried to point to a bright side for his teammate.
"He was very upset being on the disabled list," Pettitte said. "I said, 'Maybe now you might feel a little bit better. I'm gonna be on the DL longer than you.'"
Pettitte first attempted to remain in the game, throwing a warm-up pitch, but said he immediately felt "an awful lot of pain shooting down to my foot."
After getting off to a 3-3 start with a 3.29 ERA, Pettitte acknowledged the timing of the injury was "frustrating," but said the time off could keep him fresh later in the season.
The injuries were the latest in an array of ailments that have hit the Yankees pitching staff this season. From offseason acquisition Michael Pineda getting lost for the season in spring training to closer Mariano Rivera sustaining a season-ending injury in April, the Yankees have had to adjust on the fly all year.
As several Yankees said, no one will feel sorry for them, as the AL East leaders won their fifth game in a row, 5-3 over the Indians.
Rookie Adam Warren will make his major league debut Friday night, starting in Sabathia's place. The original plan was for Freddy Garcia to start Friday, but he was pressed into long relief and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings to get the win Wednesday. Garcia will now start Monday with the 24-year-old Warren getting his shot after going 5-5 with a 3.86 ERA for Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Pa.).
Cashman said the club will also continue to stretch out David Phelps, who would have been the top fill-in candidate if he did not need to readjust to starting after helping out the Yankees bullpen earlier this season.
"You can't replace those guys," catcher Russell Martin said, "but whoever's in a position to go out and pitch is gonna have to do the best they can."