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NYY@BAL: Kuroda tosses seven strong innings vs. O's

When Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda steps on the mound Sunday against the Reds, he'll be the last one left.

Gone for the season are CC Sabathia to right knee surgery and Ivan Nova to Tommy John surgery. Masahiro Tanaka is expected to be out for at least six weeks with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, and Michael Pineda is rehabbing a right shoulder injury, hopeful for an August return.

Kuroda is the only starter remaining from the Yankees' injury-riddled Opening Day rotation.

In his last 13 starts, Kuroda is 4-3 with a 3.65 ERA, and he has produced a quality start in four of his last five outings.

Sunday, he'll look to lead New York to a sweep of the Reds and pitch deep into the game -- both for him and the sake of the Yankees' bullpen, which has been effective, but busy.

"I think we've asked a lot of them to begin with. But I still think you have to, at times, protect them as well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "There's two things that can happen if you overuse them. Worst-case scenario is that people can get hurt. The second worst-case scenario is they become ineffective or exhausted, and that doesn't help you either."

Kuroda will face a dominant Johnny Cueto of the Reds, who has thrown at least six innings in his last seven starts and hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in each outing. He's struck out 44 with a 2.45 ERA and has gone 5-1 in that span.

The All-Star is second in the National League with a 2.13 ERA, first with 143 2/3 innings, a .181 opponents' batting average and a 0.89 WHIP, and tied for first with three complete games.

In his last start right before the All-Star break, Cueto went six innings against the Pirates, made more impressive after having to wait nearly an hour for a rain delay in the fifth inning.

"It was not easy [during the rain delay]; I don't recommend that to anybody," he said. "I hope nobody has to go through that. When you're up in your tempo and then you've got to come back and wait and wait and wait, you've got to create so many things. And I thank [manager] Bryan [Price] that he let me continue in the game."

Reds: Schumaker passes concussion test
Reds outfielder/second baseman Skip Schumaker had a concussion test Saturday, and passed it. The next step is to receive clearance and approval from Major League Baseball and the Players Association before he can be activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list.

It is possible he could play Sunday against the Yankees.

Schumaker was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list prior to the July 11 series opener against the Pirates. He slammed hard into the right-field wall trying to make a leaping catch on Luis Valbuena's go-ahead two-run triple in the 12th inning of a 6-4 loss to the Cubs the day before. Schumaker is hitting .240 with eight doubles and 14 RBIs this season.

"He did very well on two different tests," Reds head trainer Paul Lessard said. "The tests have been submitted. We haven't gotten clearance yet from the league. They look it over and send the message."

Yankees: Sabathia feeling optimistic about surgery
Sabathia is scheduled to have an arthroscopic debridement performed Wednesday, which will clean out his right knee.

Sabathia said it's been one of his goals to continue to pitch even after his contract is up, and he feels optimistic that it will happen. He and Dr. Neal ElAttrache have plans to have Sabathia back on the mound by Spring Training.

"He feels good about it and I do, too," Sabathia said. "[NBA star] Russell Westbrook had the same surgery and was able to come back and be fine. Obviously, you have to deal with a little bit of swelling here and there, but that's something I have to deal with."

Sabathia, who turns 34 on Monday, has not pitched in the big leagues since May 10, when he started against the Brewers at Miller Park and experienced swelling in his right knee. An MRI showed what the team called "degenerative changes" in the knee.

He was 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA this season and attempted to rehab with the aid of a stem cell injection, but experienced more knee issues after making a Minor League start for Double-A Trenton on July 2.

"I felt like I was on the right path," Sabathia said. "Waking up that night after, it just didn't make sense. I couldn't even come in here and get my workout in and do the stuff that I wanted to do."

Worth noting
• Reds first baseman/outfielder Donald Lutz made his first start in the big leagues since June 9 on Saturday against the Yankees. He went 1-for-3 with a double.

• Brian McCann has been hitting well for the Yankees of late. He went 6-for-10 against the Orioles last week. Against the Reds, he's gone 2-for-8 with an RBI and a run scored over the first two games of the series and has his batting average up to .240.

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