Despite having not pitched in nearly three weeks and not making a single rehab start during his stint on the DL, CC Sabathia returned to the mound tonight as if he had never left.
“Life to his fastball, changeup was good, slider was good, command was good,” Joe Girardi said after the Yankees’ 6-1 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday. “I think whenever you have a layoff, there’s a concern. He only threw two simulated innings and a couple of bullpens, but I was really impressed.”
Sabathia was arguably as sharp as he has been all season, getting through six-plus innings, allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out six. He was pulled at 87 pitches after allowing a leadoff single in the seventh to Adam Lind.
“Larry (Rothschild) and I talked about 85 pitches – maybe a few more depending on where we were at in the game – and that’s what he gave us,” Girardi said. “We’ll bump it up the next time, and then there won’t be any limitations on him.”
CC seemed to have great command, and didn’t really get himself into much trouble all night. After missing time, we all knew how anxious he was to get back on the mound, but he managed his emotions well.
“I just tried to make sure that I calmed myself down and threw strikes,” Sabathia said. “I didn’t want to get into long counts and have to overwork myself early.”
• Not only was CC able to spot his fastball all night, but he was very encouraged with his changeup. That can be a key out-pitch for him when it’s working. “I think my changeup was a lot better than it has been all year, and probably last year, too,” he said. “When I’m able to command that, my fastball feels pretty good.”
• Sabathia reiterated that his short break may work out for the best in the long run. “We’ll see. Like I said, I felt really good today,” he said. “The rest was better for my arm than my groin.”
• The other hero from tonight’s game was Andruw Jones. As the Brett Gardner situation continues to develop and signs continue to point to him being out for awhile longer, his replacements (Jones and Raul Ibanez) have come up with back-to-back huge games. Ibanez had the clutch grand slam last night, and Jones hit an early three-run homer tonight in the second that turned out to be the big blow. “It’s really good when you can platoon your left fielders in a sense and get a ton of production from them, and it’s not just singles – they’re home runs and RBI – it really helps,” Girardi said. “Andruw has been a complete player. He still plays good defense out there, and we’re very pleased with what he’s done.”
• Girardi didn’t have an update on Gardner, other than saying that there are three doctors who are going to review today’s MRI and make a determination. He was asked if he thinks he has enough in-house to make up for Gardner’s absence if he can’t return this season. “I feel comfortable,” he said. “You’re going to see (Dewayne) Wise play some, and we’ll give Curtis (Granderson) a day here or there… D-Wise had a tremendous week for us a couple of weeks ago, and he plays an outstanding centerfield, so we’re just going to have to do it.”
• Jones was asked about whether he thinks the Yankees may look to make a move. “I’m not Brian Cashman,” he said. “This is a business, and if he feels like he needs to go out there and get someone to help the team, that’s his decision. All we have to do is keep working hard, and when they call our name to go out and play, get the job done.”
• Girardi acknowledged the possibility that, if Gardner’s elbow is never completely right this season, he could still eventually return in a limited role. The main thing that aggravates the injury is swinging a bat, but Gardner could contribute in other aspects of the game. “You could in September, sure,” Girardi said when asked if Gardner could be used as a pinch-runner. “You could do that, and maybe use him for defense.”
• Jones’ home run tonight was his 12th of the season, and he is now averaging a long ball nearly once in every 11 at-bats. Since June 22, he is hitting .379 (11-for-29) with two doubles and five homers vs. left-handed pitching. “It feels good,” Jone said of his swing. “Everybody when you might go one game not feeling good at the plate, you’re looking forward to that next game and getting another four at-bat game. Since we played in Boston, I’ve been feeling pretty comfortable at the plate.”
• Jones was also asked if he prefers playing in the field, as opposed to DHing. “If my legs are feeling healthy, then yeah, I would rather (play the outfield),” he said. “I can help Curtis position himself out there, and I feel more in the game… But I really don’t mind the DH.”
• The Yankees tacked on three more runs in the seventh thanks to some production from the bottom of the order. Their 7-9 hitters tonight (Jones, Jayson Nix and Chris Stewart) combined to go 5-for-11 with three runs scored, two doubles, one homer and four RBI. Girardi was asked about the contributions that he’s received from his bench. “I think I have a really good bench that can be extremely productive for us,” he said. “You can rest a guy here or there, and try to keep guys healthy.”
• Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to a career-high 20 games tonight. As I tweeted earlier, without getting too far ahead of myself, I am genuinely curious how long he can keep this up. Cano is such a complete hitter whose hits come in all forms, and he’s exactly the type of player who can make a streak like this interesting.
• It’s been a fun couple of days running the blog while Chad has been off. Brian Heyman will be here tomorrow, with Chad returning on Thursday, but I’ll be back next week. Goodnight everyone!
Associated Press photos