Alas, it took all of 2 1/3 innings of the '06 season for C.C. Sabathia to be injured. The Indians had to put the ace left-hander on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained oblique muscle on his right side.
The Tribe, which called up right-handed reliever Jason Davis from Triple-A Buffalo to replace Sabathia on the active roster, is estimating Sabathia will be out three to five weeks.
"It's clearly disappointing," general manager Mark Shapiro said of the injury. "But it's also part of the game. Every team needs to prepare to handle injuries, both mentally and logistically. Part of the ability to be a championship team is how you deal with setbacks during a 162-game season."
Sabathia and the Indians have dealt with this injury before.
Last year, Sabathia suffered a very similar strain in the early days of Spring Training. He went on to miss the first two weeks of the regular season.
But if Sabathia's inexact evaluation is any indication, this injury isn't as severe.
"It actually feels good today," Sabathia said. "I've had zero pain. Last year, I had pain for a week or so. I'm coughing fine and I've sneezed a couple times, and I haven't had any pain."
Sabathia underwent an MRI exam Monday and was thoroughly evaluated before the decision to put him on the DL was made. The Indians won't need a fifth starter until April 15 in Detroit, and it's likely right-hander Fausto Carmona, who impressed in Spring Training, would get the nod that day.
In the meantime, the club has bumped right-hander Jason Johnson, who was scheduled to pitch for Class A Kinston in an exhibition against Buffalo on Tuesday, up a day in the rotation. He'll pitch Saturday against the Twins. Jake Westbrook will follow Sunday.
Sabathia isn't expected to do much of anything, throwing-wise, the next couple days.
Because of his size -- 6-foot-7, 290 pounds -- Sabathia's conditioning is often called into question. But head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff insisted weight is not an issue with this injury. Both he and Shapiro pointed to decisively thinner players, such as Tim Hudson and, quite recently, Nomar Garciaparra, who have experienced a similar setback.
Soloff said Sabathia's height and rotational velocity are the more likely culprits.
"The same mechanical attributes that conspire to make C.C. an All-Star caliber pitcher also conspire or can lead to injury," Soloff said. "As an organization, we're keenly aware of those attributes and we work in earnest as a staff to minimize those risks. We're very satisfied with C.C.'s conditioning. We're very satisfied with his profile as well."
Soloff said the Indians don't expect this to be a chronic injury for Sabathia, despite the fact that he's suffered it twice in the past 13 months.
Manager Eric Wedge speculated that Sabathia exposed himself to the threat of injury by overthrowing against the White Sox, who touched him for three runs in those 2 1/3 innings of work.
"When you talk about coming out of Spring Training and as electric as this place was," Wedge said, "he probably just reached down and tried to do a little more."
Sabathia, who tweaked the muscle on a pitch to Tadahito Iguchi, agreed, though he said he didn't make a conscious effort to overthrow.
"I was watching the video in there, and I was throwing the ball harder than I thought," he said. "I was trying to throw it nice and easy, 90 or 91 [mph] and I was actually throwing it 93 or 94. It was just being pumped, I guess, because of the circumstances of the game."
The injury is likely to end Sabathia's run of five straight season with 30s or more starts.
The positive note, however, is that unlike last year, when he had to make two rehab appearances to get his arm in shape after missing virtually all of Spring Training, Sabathia's arm is more ready for the season ahead this time around.
"This year it's after a full Spring Training," Soloff said. "So from an arm conditioning standpoint, we're cautiously optimistic that it will be a quicker process this year."