ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees starter Chase Whitley pointed to his right forearm as he surrendered the baseball to his manager on Thursday evening, and the worst-case scenario flashed immediately through Joe Girardi's mind, having seen similar situations far too many times in recent years.
Whitley was forced to exit his start during the Yankees' 6-1 loss to the Rays in the second inning with what the team has initially described as a right elbow injury. The right-hander will have an MRI examination in Tampa, Fla., and Girardi said that the issue is "in that area you don't want to talk about."
"It's been in there for a little while, but adrenaline would take over during a game," Whitley said. "Tonight, it just wasn't taking over and I felt it pretty much the whole time."
Catcher Brian McCann signaled to the dugout after Whitley issued back-to-back walks to Asdrubal Cabrera and Joey Butler with two outs in the second inning. Whitley had also uncorked a wild pitch in the first inning, and McCann said that he saw Whitley repeatedly wincing.
"He was having a hard time finishing his pitches," McCann said. "That's why he was spiking his changeup and his fastball was kind of erratic."
Whitley said that he never mentioned the discomfort to the team medical staff, but he noted that his dipping velocity should have been a red flag. In four big league starts, Whitley was 1-2 with a 4.19 ERA.
"I have no regrets about it," Whitley said. "In my head, I want to pitch. I told you all from the time I got called up last year, I'm here to pitch. It just happened that way."
Esmil Rogers relieved Whitley and surrendered a three-run homer to Rene Rivera on the first pitch he threw. By that time, Whitley was already on his way to be examined by team physician Dr. Daniel Murphy, and he will soon be placed on the disabled list.
Girardi said that left-hander Chris Capuano, who threw six innings in a victory on Tuesday at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, will claim the vacant spot in the rotation. Whitley enjoyed a strong spring but started the season in the Minors so he could remain stretched out as a starter.
"There's obviously concern about this," Girardi said. "It's extremely disappointing because this kid's done everything that we've asked."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.