Mid-season is an awkward time for any starting pitcher to make significant adjustments. There are four days of work — two of which he can’t doing any real throwing — followed by a start in which he’s supposed to be at his very best. Hard to be reinvented on such a schedule, and CC Sabathia surely ran into that problem during this season of transition.
“Yeah, it is (difficult),” Sabathia said. “It’s me being stubborn, too, and not wanting to change and thinking that I’ve got stuff figured out. It was a lot of different things. Of course, you want to have more time to work on things, especially when you’re trying to change things in your delivery. I’ll have the whole offseason to work on my throwing and my mechanics and be back right.”
That was the mantra yesterday. While Sabathia sat down to talk about the abrupt end to his season — turns out he strained his hamstring against San Francisco — he wound up talking about moving forward after his worst Major League season. Sabathia might not rediscover the fastball of his youth, but he vowed to recover that old success.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be that same guy again,” he said. “I’m 33 this year, but pitching against San Francisco the other night, I felt like back to myself more so than any other start. It wasn’t velocity — I was 90 to 93 — but just pitching inside, being aggressive, throwing fastballs in hitters’ counts. Just going out there and being a bully. That’s something I feel like I was before and kind of lost that this year.”
Friday was one of Sabathia’s best starts of the year — seven innings, one run — but it wasn’t the only thing Sabathia pointed to as cause for optimism. He said the real work started in the weeks leading into that start, when he started working on new things in the bullpen and actually watching video of opponents.
He’s no longer the kind of pitcher who can enter games with little more than a scouting report and a live arm.
“I feel like at certain times, I kind of fell in the same pattern, pitching the same way,” Sabathia said. “Hitters watch video and they know what to expect out of me, so it’s only right for me to do the same thing. … I’ve always been a guy that never watched video and that’s something that I need to change. My preparation for games probably needs to get a little better in that way. That’s something me and Larry talked about, and going forward will be better.”
If it’s not about recovering velocity — and if he dismissed concerns about his weight, health and workload — then what is Sabathia expecting to be better next season? What’s going to change aside from a few video sessions to make sure he doesn’t repeat the most losses, the highest ERA and the worst WHIP of his career?
“I’m just talking about going out and pitching like I did the other day (against the Giants),” Sabathia said. “Grinding games out. That’s something I feel like I didn’t do a good job of this year. Getting runners on base and being able to get a double play. Giving up a run or two, and being able to shut the inning off. I feel like I gave up too many big innings and big situations. We come out and score a couple of runs off a tough pitcher, and I come back and give the lead right back. That’s stuff that I didn’t do, or I don’t do, and it happened this year. I think that’s what I say when I talk about coming back and being right.
“… I think I’ll be back to myself. I know a lot of people have written me off and said I’ve thrown too many innings and whatever, whatever, but I’ll still be here and still be accountable and still be the guy that signed up in 2009.”
Associated Press photos