Sabathia and the Indians were breathing a welcome, albeit cautious, sigh of relief Wednesday afternoon.
The Reed Johnson line drive that struck Sabathia in the forearm in the first inning of his final Grapefruit League start against the Blue Jays did not break a bone, according to X-rays taken at Winter Haven Hospital. And for now, the Tribe's ace is still planning on making his Opening Day start Monday in Chicago.
Of course, those plans are dependant on how Sabathia feels in the coming days.
"I'm pretty optimistic about being able to pitch Monday," Sabathia said. "I've got full range of motion [in the arm], and it's feeling fine. I'm sure it will probably be sore [Thursday], but I'll play catch and try to work through it."
X-rays have been wrong before. Last September, for instance, the first X-ray taken of designated hitter Travis Hafner's right hand after he was hit by a pitch from Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson did not reveal a break. A second X-ray did, however, and Hafner missed the remainder of the season.
For his part, though, Sabathia said he's "pretty sure" this batted ball didn't cause a break. He said he knew it in the moments after the ball hit him, when he was still able to move his arm freely. But Sabathia took one look at the knot on his arm and knew the Spring Training tuneup was over.
The line drive off Johnson's bat came on Sabathia's second pitch of the game. The left-hander tried to shield himself from the ball with his throwing hand and his glove, and the ball struck him below the left wrist.
Visibly upset, Sabathia came out of the game immediately and was replaced by Tom Mastny.
"It's so frustrating," Sabathia said. "It's the last start, and we're just trying to get our work in and be ready for Opening Day, and then something like this happens on the second pitch of the game. It's frustrating. But I'm excited about the X-rays being negative. I'm definitely feeling a lot better now."
The Indians, who basically set their Opening Day roster earlier in the day, hope he keeps feeling that way. Otherwise, they'll have some serious rotation juggling to perform in the waning days of Spring Training.
If Sabathia isn't ready to pitch Monday, it's possible fifth starter Paul Byrd would get the ball. Byrd is currently scheduled to throw in an extended spring game at Chain of Lakes on Sunday, in preparation for his start in the Tribe's home opener April 6 against the Mariners.
A prolonged injury to Sabathia would likely open the door for top prospect Adam Miller, who had a dominant spring, to join the rotation. Miller, the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year at Double-A Akron last season, pitched 14 scoreless Grapefruit League innings before being reassigned to Minor League camp March 20.
The Indians will examine such options only if Sabathia's condition worsens.
"We'll see how he feels," manager Eric Wedge said. "You try not to think the worst [when you see the injury], but we knew it got him pretty good. We're fortunate we dodged a bullet."
In five Grapefruit League starts, Sabathia went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA. He appeared to have pretty good command of all his pitches, especially in striking out nine batters over six innings in a Triple-A start against Houston's Round Rock club on March 23. All indications were that Sabathia was ready to build off an impressive 2006, in which he went 12-11 with a 3.22 ERA in 28 starts.
Sabathia threw 88 pitches in the Minor League outing, so he doesn't think coming out of this final start would hold him back Monday.
"It shouldn't affect me at all," he said. "I should be able to go out there and throw 100-105 pitches."
Sabathia is no stranger to injuries this time of year.
He strained his right oblique muscle while warming up in the bullpen for his first exhibition start in 2005 and ended up missing the first two weeks of the regular season. Last year, he left his Opening Day start against the White Sox in the third inning with another oblique injury. That one cost him the remainder of the first month of the season.
All Sabathia wanted to do this spring was get his work in and stay healthy, even going so far as to give up golfing to protect his oblique.
And oh, how close he came to an uneventful camp.
"Almost," he said with a laugh. "I stayed away from getting sick this year. I almost got out of here unscathed. But the Winter Haven curse got me again."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.