TORONTO -- The bulky brace that has been CC Sabathia's companion throughout the last two seasons ran out of magic on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre, as pain in the left-hander's arthritic right knee forced him out of the Yankees' 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays after just three innings.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that it is too early to know if Sabathia will require a stint on the disabled list, but Sabathia is returning to New York on Wednesday to have the knee examined, and he struck a glum note in a brief exchange with reporters following the game.
"It's just frustrating," Sabathia said. "It's been healthy all year, and to go out today and not have it be where I want it to be, it's frustrating."
Sabathia said that he experienced pain throughout the entire outing, in which he served up a pair of two-run homers to Josh Donaldson.
"It's just hard to land," Sabathia said. "It's hard for me to finish my pitches. It's just hard for me to get over my front side and finish my pitches. When I can't do that, then I don't know where the ball is going."
The wear and tear of 17 years in the big leagues has accumulated for Sabathia, who has worked 3,270 2/3 regular-season innings, including a few seasons after being told that he is pitching with bone-on-bone arthritis in a knee that eventually will require replacement surgery.
Girardi said that he saw the 37-year-old fidgeting with his brace during the third inning, then walk off the field with a slight limp.
"He'll feel it one pitch every once in a while, but when he came off he said he was feeling it every pitch," Girardi said. "That's why I pulled him."
Catcher Gary Sanchez said that he didn't realize there was a physical issue until Sabathia was already out of the game, but he did notice that Sabathia's velocity was down, averaging just 88 mph with his fastball.
"He's a very important piece to this team," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "He's a veteran that knows how to pitch. He's been pitching in the big leagues for such a long time, and he's been doing that at a really good pace for us. He's important for us."
Bryan Mitchell relieved Sabathia and hurled four-plus innings of scoreless relief to keep the score close.
A free agent after this season, his ninth with the Yankees, Sabathia is 9-5 with a 4.05 ERA in 19 starts.
"Right now, I just want to pitch," Sabathia said. "I just want to get out there and be healthy and pitch. We'll see."
Should Sabathia be unable to make his next start, the Yankees could recall left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre following Sunday's game.
Mitchell could be a candidate for a spot start, while right-hander Chance Adams -- the organization's top pitching prospect -- has been excelling in the Minors, going 12-3 with a 1.99 ERA in 22 starts between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A.
"It's too early for that," Girardi said. "I think you've got to wait to see how [Sabathia] feels, what the doctor says, and then you make a decision."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.