Standing at his locker after a 36-pitch bullpen this morning, CC Sabathia was sweating. This was not playing catch. This was not tossing a few fastballs nice and easy. This was his normal pregame warmup, throwing all of his pitches, pitching as if getting ready to make a start.
“I got after it a little bit, and I have been in the bullpens,” he said. “This is the time to test it, and I will when I’m down there in Tampa. It’s not just like rehabbing, I really do need to test it to see if I can do it. I feel like I feel pretty good.”
Working his way back from a stem-cell injection meant to help repair some degenerative damage in his right knee. He’s wearing a brace and said he feels a noticeable difference from the way he felt earlier this season. He’s planning to fly to Tampa tomorrow, face hitters in live batting practice on Tuesday, and he plans to pitch in some sort of minor league game on Saturday.
“I feel good,” Sabathia said. “I’m optimistic. I feel like I’ll be able to go. If I didn’t I would be out there trying to put us through this, because I know how much it affected me, how good it didn’t feel. Just putting the team in a bad spot. But I feel good.”
Joe Girardi said the Yankees are “encouraged” by Sabathia’s progress. The Yankees have previously said Sabathia’s not likely to be back until after the All-Star break, which is three weeks from Tuesday. Sabathia said he doesn’t have an exact time table for his return, but he’s hoping he needs fewer than five rehab starts (a number he seemed to pluck out of the air, just saying he felt he might not need too many minor league games before being big league ready).
“I’ve been sitting around here just feeling sorry for myself, just watching the team grind,” Sabathia said. “It’s tough. You want to be out there helping these guys, so I feel better that I do have a little light where I can see hopefully getting out there, helping.”
• Today is the pregame ceremony to honor Tino Martinez, who’s being celebrated with a plaque in Monument Park. “Great teammate,” Girardi said. “Great first baseman. Middle-of-the-order hitter with power. But just a great teammate. Everyone loved Tino. And I had a chance to be with him a couple of different spots, enjoyed being with him and I would still call him a close friend. Obviously I think it’s wonderful what’s happening today with Tino. He was a great Yankee.”
• Good story from Girardi about being Martinez’s teammate: “Tino brought an edge. He brought a real edge to the game. He had high expectations, and I actually remember there was one day, him and O’Neill – I was kind of in between their lockers – and they were arguing. Paul was jealous of the home runs Tino was hitting, and Tino was jealous of the average that Paul had. And I’m thinking, ‘Shut up! I don’t need to hear this. Here I’m fighting to hit .260, .270 and one of you has got 25 homers, the other is hitting .325. I don’t need to hear this. I don’t feel bad for either one of you.’ But that’s how they were.”
• Kelly Johnson is in the lineup but Girardi said he’ll check with him after batting practice to make sure he can play today. Indications are that he’s fine. Johnson bruised some fingers trying to lay down a bunt on Thursday.
• Weird, but Girardi said there’s no MRI update on Michael Pineda. Made it sound like no big deal — really didn’t sound like the team was hiding anything — Girardi said he just forgot to ask Steve Donohue for an update this morning. Pineda was supposed to play catch today, and Girardi indicated that’s still the plan assuming the MRI came back clean. “There was so much going on today, I don’t have it yet,” Girardi said. “I forgot to ask.”
• David Huff’s ankle is fine and he’s available tonight.
• Nothing wrong with Brian McCann, just sitting out a day game after a night game.
• Last night’s walk-off was a signature Yankees moment for Carlos Beltran. Could that take any pressure off a veteran in his first year with a new team? “I think it can,” Girardi said. “But he was swinging the bat well before that homer. I know it took him a little while to get going once he came back in the arm brace, but it kind of started in Oakland that last day and got him going. Obviously I think that can relax a player.”
Associated Press photos