NEW YORK » For the second day in a row, a New York Yankees starter left early with an injury. This time, it will hurt.
Andy Pettitte strained his left groin yesterday and is expected to miss at least a month, the bad news for the Yankees on a day when they knocked around All-Star starter David Price and got a brilliant effort from their bullpen in a 9-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
"It was a good game — with the exception of Andy," Derek Jeter said. "Someone else is going to have to pick it up."
That someone will be right-hander Sergio Mitre, on the disabled list since June 15 with a strained muscle on his left side. Mitre will throw about 75 pitches today in a rehab outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, then come off the DL to start in Pettitte’s spot Saturday against Kansas City.
"That’s the plan," general manager Brian Cashman said in a phone interview. "We’ve been fortunate to go this long without any injuries to our starting pitching."
Cashman said by the time Pettitte heals and then gets back in pitching shape, he’s likely to miss four to five weeks.
"I’d say that’s a safe guess," the GM said.
Robinson Cano hit a two-run triple, Jorge Posada a two-run double and Alex Rodriguez added his 598th home run for the Yankees, who took two of three in a series between the top two teams in baseball to move three games ahead of Tampa Bay in the AL East.
New York capped an emotional weekend filled with tributes to late owner George Steinbrenner and public address announcer Bob Sheppard by winning for the 10th time in 12 games. Five relievers picked up Pettitte, who hurt himself on a 3-1 pitch to Kelly Shoppach in the third inning and will go on the disabled list.
"We have to weather it. That’s our job," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "No matter who we send out there, we expect to win."
The 38-year-old Pettitte, who pitched in the All-Star Game last Tuesday, was taken to a hospital for an MRI after walking off the field under his own power.
"It was painful out there," said Pettitte, who missed 15 days with the same injury in 2001. "The doctor said the next couple days how I feel is probably going to dictate how long I’ll be out."
Pettitte’s injury came one day after New York starter A.J. Burnett lasted only two-plus innings in a 10-5 loss, leaving the game with cuts on both hands following an angry fit in the clubhouse.
Frustrated by his ineffective outing, Burnett slammed open a set of double doors during the second inning Saturday, slicing both palms on the plastic lineup-card holders fastened to the entry. A day later, he said he apologized to his teammates for the outburst and will make his next scheduled start.
Moseley tossed three innings in relief of Burnett, and Gaudin followed with four — leaving the Yankees without an available long man yesterday. So they put this one together piece by piece out of the bullpen.
Chan Ho Park (2-1) pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings for the win and Mariano Rivera needed one pitch to finish a game that lasted 3 hours, 47 minutes.
"It was a great job by the bullpen, especially after yesterday. You couldn’t pick a worse day for me to go down," Pettitte said.
He was replaced by David Robertson, and Yankees fielders headed for the dugout to cool off while Robertson warmed up to replace him.