And yet, in the span of one inning, they nearly found out.
Alex Rodriguez twisted his right ankle sliding headfirst into third base in the Yankees' seven-run seventh inning on Tuesday, en route to a 12-3 victory over the Mariners. A half-inning later, Chien-Ming Wang took the mound for the eighth inning but was pulled with lower-back stiffness.
Now for the exhale. Though he complained that his ankle -- rolled over by Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre -- was "a little sore," Rodriguez underwent X-rays that came back negative, taken on the premises of Yankee Stadium following the game.
Rodriguez left open the possibility that he may need to rest on Wednesday, as the Yankees wrap up their Wild Card-tinged series with the Mariners.
"A little scary," said Rodriguez, who hit his Major League-leading 46th homer in the victory. "But we'll see how it feels in the morning."
"I knew it was going to take me a long time to get to third base, and I didn't want bad news when I got there," manager Joe Torre said. "Then, when I saw him get up on his knees, it made me feel better. But that was scary, the way he went down. There's so many things that can happen."
The Yankees explained Wang's stiffness by pointing to the lengthy seventh inning, in which New York sent 12 men to the plate against three Seattle pitchers.
With a low pitch count and the Yankees having staked Wang to a large lead, the right-hander opened the eighth inning, throwing two pitches to pinch-hitter Jeremy Reed. Both offerings set off red flags in the mind of catcher Jorge Posada, who trotted to the mound and checked on Wang after Reed chopped to second base.
"He asked me if I was OK," Wang said. "I said, 'I'm OK.' I could not get loose."
That, Posada said, was enough to wave to the Yankees' bench for a coaching visit. Enough was enough.
"I was not going to let him pitch," Posada said. "It just didn't look good -- the two pitches he threw, something about it didn't look right. I just wanted to make sure he was OK. He told me he felt tight, and I told the dugout to come out.
"You don't want him to get hurt. He's too valuable. I just wanted to make sure he was OK."
Wang said he received only normal ice treatment on the back and that he was feeling better after the game. Since he will not pitch on seven days' rest with a long layoff upcoming due to two off-days in the schedule, the Yankees had little concern the issue would follow him.
Pitching coach Ron Guidry and Torre both blamed the stiffness on the lengthy preceding inning, since Wang opened the eighth at just 84 pitches.
"Sitting down for 45 minutes, that's it," Guidry said. "Most of the time, it's five minutes, 10 minutes. When you sit down for 40 or 45 minutes, your back gets tight, especially late in the game."
"You could see when he threw the first couple of pitches, he didn't bend his back," Torre said. "It was just stiffness. It's not an issue. I think it was just a long inning."
Asked if Wang perhaps should have admitted that his back was stiff before opening the eighth inning, the catcher shuffled the question off to the 27-year-old right-hander. With 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball in the books on the way to win No. 17, Wang could do little wrong.
"You don't want him to get hurt," Posada said. "He's too valuable. I just wanted to make sure he was OK."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less