Yanks catch bad break with Posada
Wang's victory overshadowed by catcher's DL stint news
CLEVELAND -- It should have been a terrific day for the Yankees, one of the best of the season.
Instead, it was perhaps the worst, a day when they found out that a truly indispensable member of the team, catcher Jorge Posada, was not going to be available for some time.
"It's shocking in a sense," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Sunday.
That was a natural reaction to the fact that the extraordinarily durable Posada was headed for the disabled list with a recurrence of a right shoulder injury.
It was also a shock to anybody who had watched Posada throw out Cleveland's fleet-footed Grady Sizemore on a stolen-base attempt on Saturday.
"I made some good throws [on Saturday]," Posada said. "Today, I couldn't throw at all."
Posada had missed two weeks of starts at his normal position this season, from April 8-22, with the shoulder injury. But he said that on Saturday, after throwing well during the course of the game, he felt some pain on a throw to third base after a strikeout. Arriving at Progressive Field on Sunday, Posada attempted to warm up, but he could not throw without considerable pain.
Earlier tests indicated that there was no structural damage to his right shoulder. But Sunday's experience made Posada wonder about that.
"The MRI showed a strained muscle," Posada said. "I think it's more than that."
That would be a layman's opinion, but it's also his shoulder. Posada has never been on the DL in his career, which is a remarkable record for someone in his second decade as a Major League catcher.
In the past eight years, Posada has averaged 142 games per season, which is one of the reasons the Yankees felt secure in giving him a four-year, $52.4 million contract, even at age 36, over the offseason. This was part of the reason that Posada may have been feeling that the weight of the world was directly upon his right shoulder on Sunday.
"You want to play," he said. "You put the uniform on and you take pride in playing."
But Posada will be resting rather than playing for the short-term future. He said that he hoped to schedule an appointment with Dr. James Andrews, the noted Birmingham, Ala., orthopedic surgeon to get another opinion.
There is no debate on the question of Posada going on the DL.
"We've got to get him healthy," Girardi said.
"I'm going on the DL, I think we've got to be smart about it," Posada said.
Backup catcher Jose Molina will be the No. 1 catcher now while the Yankees seek another reserve backstop. Molina is a capable defensive catcher, a thoughtful handler of pitchers and a member of the first family of catching. But he was the first one to acknowledge that the Yankees could use a speedy return to full health by Posada.
"We need his bat, and we need the leadership that he brings to this team," Molina said.
Posada was in the original lineup that was posted on Sunday. Molina said that it was merely 12 minutes before game time when he was informed that he would start. The news on Posada was bad, before the game and after the game. If the day had consisted only of the two hours and 54 minutes it took to defeat the Indians, 1-0, this would have been a glorious Sunday for the Yankees.
|"It's shocking in a sense."|
|-- Yankees manager Joe Girardi, on catcher Jorge Posada's injury|
Chien-Ming Wang's best work was on display, as he outpitched Indians ace C.C. Sabathia. A very good Cleveland lineup appeared helpless against Wang over seven shutout innings. Wang gave up four hits, walked two and struck out nine.
And then, just as the Yankees would have scripted it, reliever Joba Chamberlain was overpowering in the eighth with two strikeouts, and closer Mariano Rivera was once again perfect in the ninth for the 450th save of his magnificent career.
Wang was not only the winner, but he was also the stopper, bringing a halt to the Yankees' three-game losing streak. He became just the third Yankees pitcher to go 5-0 in April, joining Andy Pettitte, who did it in 1997, and Mike Mussina, who accomplished that in 2003.
All of that would have typically been enough for general Yankees rejoicing. But it was overshadowed by the news on Posada. The New York Times reported on its Web site on Sunday that Posada had a tear in his subscapularis muscle. While Girardi disputed that report, the recurrence of the shoulder problem means that this is something more than the garden-variety fatigued shoulder. And the basic fact that Posada was going go on the DL was a jolt to this club.
"I would hope that it would be just 15 days," Girardi said of Posada's absence.
Beyond that, Girardi said what managers must say in these sorts of situations, that, while the Yankees would obviously miss Posada, other players would have to "step up." The Yankees have been hit with more than their share of injuries in this young season, and while they have not prospered by their own standards, they have also not evaporated.
"We've been kind of shorthanded all year long, but we've found a way to survive," Girardi said.
In the search for a way to keep Posada in the Yankees' lineup, there were questions about him playing first base, where he started once this season and 13 times in his career. Posada put that notion in its place.
"No, I'm not playing first base," he said. "I'm a catcher. We've got seven first basemen here. Why play first base?"
Posada is a catcher. And he is also a staple of the modern Yankees franchise. That has been a blessing for this team, but on this Sunday, it was a reminder of how much he would be missed.
On a day when the Yankees should have been able to enjoy a first-rate pitchers' duel that went in their direction, they instead found out that their catcher, while he still was close to indispensable, was no longer indestructible.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.