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07/18/10 7:33 PM ET

Pettitte likely headed to DL with groin strain

NEW YORK -- It had been nine years since Andy Pettitte had sensed any aggravating pain in his left groin.

But when he tossed an 85-mph slider to Tampa Bay's Kelly Shoppach in the top of third inning Sunday afternoon, the All-Star Yankees pitcher quickly recalled the exacerbating left groin strain that plagued him during the 2001 season.

"I was telling the doctor I forgot how painful and how much of a discomfort it is to injure this," said Pettitte. "It hurt pretty bad today. Usually, I sit here and say I think I can pitch through anything, but I was hurting."

That sudden rush of pain could ultimately land Pettitte on the disabled list. Once Pettitte was removed from the game Sunday, he was immediately taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital to undergo an MRI on his left groin.

Following the game, Pettitte said doctors diagnosed him with a Grade 1 strain on his groin, giving him hope that he can recover in the coming days. Manager Joe Girardi, however, wasn't as optimistic about his pitcher's status.

"I think he'll probably end up on the DL," Girardi said. "We won't know until we get a couple days in and see the symptoms. We're going to have to talk about it internally, the options that we have. But it looks like he's probably headed to the DL."

And that's an alternative Pettitte doesn't mind. Pettitte, 38, is in his 16th year in the Major Leagues and emphasized the importance of preserving his body in order to compete for another World Series run down the road.

"Obviously, I'm a lot older," Pettitte said. "I want to be healthy down the stretch. I want to feel great. I'm not going to try to rush it back. I'm going to try to get well."

It certainly didn't look good for Pettitte initially. Following his pitch to Shoppach, Pettitte quickly hunched down over the mound, prompting catcher Jorge Posada to motion for Girardi and team trainer Gene Monahan to examine Pettitte.

After tossing one warmup pitch, Pettitte said his groin tightened up on his delivery, forcing Girardi to signal for reliever David Robertson. It marked the second consecutive day that a Yankees starter couldn't make it past the third inning due to injury.

"I'll see how the next couple days go," Pettitte said. "I stride out awfully far whenever I pitch and it gets a lot of torque on there. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed in the next two days that I recover real good and it feels good, so I'm not out for long."

In the meantime, Girardi said he will weigh his options with general manager Brian Cashman as they collectively prepare to select a spot starter for Pettitte's scheduled outing next Saturday against the Kansas City Royals.

Girardi mentioned Chad Gaudin, Dustin Moseley and Sergio Mitre as potential pitchers to spell Pettitte next week. Mitre, who was placed on the DL with a strained left oblique on June 5, tossed a 60-pitch session Thursday and is vying to be ready if his number is called.

"For the most part, yeah," Mitre said about his ability to make a spot start. "We didn't anticipate Andy going down, and I was just pretty much working on arm strength. But I'm trying to build up on my pitch count."

On Saturday, Cashman said that Mitre would be activated shortly, but that didn't ease Derek Jeter's mood following Sunday's game.

"It's unfortunate," Jeter said. "You don't like to see injuries to your starter. ... But those things happen over the course of the season. We'll see how long he's going to be out, and someone else is going to have to pick it up."

Didier Morais is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.