The Indians have right-hander Fausto Carmona, fresh off an impressive Spring Training camp, waiting in the wings at Triple-A Buffalo, if need be.
"It's a possible DL situation," manager Eric Wedge said of Sabathia's injury. "We'll see how it goes. I don't think it's anything too extreme."
Sabathia has a history of early season injuries. In April of 2003, he left his second start of the season with a hyperextension of his throwing elbow. In April of '04, he was scratched from a start because of irritation in his throwing shoulder. He began the '05 season on the disabled list after straining an oblique muscle during Spring Training.
Sabathia said this injury is similar to the one he endured a year ago.
"It's about the same thing," he said. "I'm disappointed. I'm definitely a little down."
This start had been rolled along relatively smooth until the third inning. Sabathia walked Juan Uribe to lead off the inning, then gave up a double to Brian Anderson that went off the glove of left fielder Jason Michaels.
Scott Podsednik brought home the first run of the game when he grounded out to second, allowing Uribe to score, and Iguchi drove in the second with a soft single over the head of shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
It was on that pitch to Iguchi that Sabathia felt the twinge in his side.
"I tried to get in on Iguchi," he said, "and I felt it grab me."
The Tribe brought in veteran Danny Graves to relieve Sabathia, and the Sox touched him for another run on a sacrifice fly from Paul Konerko.
All told, Sabathia was credited with giving up three runs on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts in the 2 1/3 innings of work. He threw just 37 pitches.
Last year, Sabathia's injury kept him on the DL for the first two weeks of the season. He said he's not sure if this injury will be as serious.
"I hope not," he said. "I don't feel it's as bad as last year, so we'll see."