The Yankees are playing first place teams for the next nine days and they'll be doing it without one of their most important relievers.
Joba Chamberlain hit the disabled list on Wednesday with a strained flexor muscle in his right elbow. While Chamberlain doesn't feel the injury is serious, he will be totally shut down for the next 10 to 14 days before doctors take another look to see how things are progressing and will likely be out close to a month when all is said and done.
The injury has apparently been bothering Chamberlain for some time, although you wouldn't be able to tell that from watching him pitch. He hasn't allowed a run in his last eight appearances and has provided the Yankees with stability in the eighth inning after Rafael Soriano struggled and then got hurt while trying to fill the role in the early part of the season.
Even if this doesn't turn out to be all that serious, this news fits right into the overall narrative of Chamberlain's Yankee career. He shows so much promise for long stretches and then injury or ineffectiveness make him disappear from the screen.
There's never a good time to lose a key part of the bullpen, but this is a particularly bad time to be down a key cog in closing out games. Games with the Red Sox are always taxing on pitchers and the Indians and Rangers will also test the depth of the staff.
That means David Robertson will have to step up as the primary set-up man and it means that Luis Ayala will have to pitch some high-leverage innings to help the team cover for Chamberlain's absence. The rest of the bullpen -- Boone Logan, Lance Pedleton and the recently recalled Amaury Sanit and Jeff Marquez (Hector Noesi was sent down after pitching six innings Tuesday) -- will also likely need to get some big outs and that can't make anyone feel too comfortable.
The late innings should be pretty interesting for the next couple of weeks. Whether we're using interesting as a euphemism for good or bad remains to be seen.
We start finding out Wednesday night and it would be good for all concerned if A.J. Burnett could pitch deep into the contest.