Stunning statement from CC Sabathia. The statement was just released by the Yankees.
“I love baseball and I love my teammates like brothers, and I am also fully aware that I am leaving at a time when we should all be coming together for one last push toward the World Series. It hurts me deeply to do this now, but I owe it to myself and to my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease, and I want to be a better man, father and player.
“I want to thank the New York Yankees organization for their encouragement and understanding. Their support gives me great strength and has allowed me to move forward with this decision with a clear mind.
“As difficult as this decision is to share publicly, I don’t want to run and hide. But for now please respect my family’s need for privacy as we work through this challenge together.
“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.
“I am looking forward to being out on the field with my team next season playing the game that brings me so much happiness.”
Associated Press photo
Slade Heathcott stole the show in the end, but last night’s most significant development just might have been the performance of CC Sabathia.
If this is Sabathia’s new reality — pitching well and staying healthy doing it — then a lot has changed for the Yankees going forward. In the short term, their rotation might not be as thin as it seemed during the Blue Jays series. In the long term, those two years left on Sabathia’s contract might not be as hopeless as they seemed through most of the season.
Since he stopped holding back at the end of July, Sabathia’s only bad start has been the one when he was too hurt to keep pitching. Since he got the new brace, Sabathia’s made two good starts, and last night’s just might have been his best in more than two years.
It was the first time since April 7, 2013 that Sabathia finished a start without an earned run.
“He came up big for us,” Joe Girardi said. “… The three starts before the one he got hurt, he was throwing the ball pretty well. Now it seems like the knee brace has helped, and he’s kind of picked up where he left off.”
Tampa Bay came into last night’s game with the baseball’s fifth-best OPS against left-handed pitchers (better than Houston, Texas, Kansas City and every National League team). Eight of their nine starters last night were either switch hitters and right-handed hitters, who’d given Sabathia fits most of the year.
Here’s last night’s Rays lineup with each hitter’s slash line against lefties coming into the game:
Brandon Guyer – .267/.374/.422
Mikie Mahtook – .268/.375/.585
Evan Longoria – .352/.414/.568
Logan Forsythe – .299/.373/.625
Asdrubal Cabrera – .288/.300/.456
Steven Souza Jr. – .213/.359/.427
Richie Shaffer 1B – .077/.226/.077
Kevin Kiermaier CF – .237/.267/.307
J.P. Arencibia C – .294/.278/.647
Six guys in that lineup had an OPS of .785 or better against lefties (for comparison, that’s almost identical to Brett Gardner’s season OPS). Three of them had an OPS of .960 or better against lefties (that’s better than Josh Donaldson’s season OPS). Shaffer spent almost all year in Triple-A and hit .310/.382/.621 against lefties down there.
Point is, this lineup could have been trouble, and Sabathia delivered a vintage start in a big moment. Three good starts in August and a couple of good starts in the past week don’t prove anything. They don’t mean Sabathia’s going to be great the rest of the year, and they certainly don’t mean he’s going to hold up through the rest of his contract.
But these past few starts have been positive signs, and they’ve come from a pitcher who’d given almost nothing but warning signs for a couple of years now.
Associated Press photos
A-Rod: “Big, signature Yankee moment” • 09.15.15
From our old friend Mark Didtler, here’s the Associated Press game story from tonight’s remarkable Yankees win.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Alex Rodriguez enjoyed being overshadowed by a rookie.
Rodriguez had a tying, two-out RBI double in the ninth and Slade Heathcott followed with a three-run homer, leading the New York Yankees to a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
The 24-year old Heathcott’s second career homer came on his first at-bat in the major’s since May 27. He was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday.
“Just tremendous,” Rodriguez said. “You get caught up and I become a fan when you’re watching a young kid with so much talent. Big, signature Yankee moment.”
The victory moved the Yankees within three-games of AL East-leading Toronto.
“To be able to do it with two outs in the ninth, it was special,” New York manager Joe Girardi said.
Erasmo Ramirez held the Yankees hitless until Carlos Beltran led off the eighth with a hot shot that took a short-hop off first baseman Richie Shaffer and went into right field.
In the bottom half Tampa Bay snapped a scoreless tie, ending its 21-inning run drought on Logan Forsythe’s RBI double.
The Yankees, though, rallied in the ninth. Down to their last out, Brett Gardner was walked by Brad Boxberger (4-10) on four pitches and stole second. Then Rodriguez tied Craig Biggio for 21st place all-time with his 3,060th hit.
Heathcott homered after Brian McCann was intentionally walked, setting off a raucous celebration in the New York dugout, A-Rod leading the way.
“It was awesome,” Heathcott said.
Caleb Cotham (1-0) got the final out in the eighth for his first big league win before Andrew Miller pitched the ninth to pick up his 33rd save.
Ramirez allowed just the one hit, walked two and had six strikeouts in 7 2-3 innings.
“I definitely checked it (the no-hitter) out in the fifth and sixth, but I tried to stay away from that and stay focused on the next hitter and what pitch I’m going to use,” Ramirez said.
CC Sabathia had a strong start for the Yankees, giving up three hits over 6 2-3 scoreless innings. He worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second.
“You just look at our dugout, the way they reacted, it’s the biggest hit of the season,” Sabathia said of Heathcott’s blast.
New York is 3-54 when trailing after eight innings.
The Yankees had two baserunners through the seventh. Rodriguez walked with two outs in the fourth and Gardner drew another walk to start the seventh.
Gardner was doubled off second after Mikie Mahtook made a leaping catch into the right-field wall on Brian McCann’s drive.
Girardi said CF Jacoby Ellsbury, in a 1 for 29 slide, is physically fine. “He feels pretty good,” Girardi said.
Girardi said RHP Adam Warren (6-6, 3.29) will be able to throw around 65 pitches in a spot start Tuesday night.
Associated Press photos
Asked yesterday why Rob Refsnyder hasn’t gotten more playing time this month, Joe Girardi leaned on the familiarity and experience of Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan.
“I’m going with the guys that have gotten us here,” Girardi said.
Asked about Refsnyder again today, Girardi cited a specific aspect of his inexperience.
“He spent the whole year in Triple-A,” Girardi said. “He doesn’t know the pitching staffs up here.”
Ultimately, it seems that Refsnyder’s disappointing second half in Triple-A and Jose Pirela’s underwhelming first half in the big leagues didn’t show enough offensively to convince the Yankees that they’re worth risking a defensive downgrade at second base.
After his four-game big league audition in July, Refsnyder returned to Triple-A and hit just .229/.296/.379 in the second half of the season. After having the exact same number of strikeouts as walks in the first half, his strikeout-to-walk ratio jumped to 29-to-12 after the All-Star break. None of that’s to say Refsnyder won’t hit, but he hasn’t forced the issue.
Pirela, on the other hand, had this right-handed utility job early in the year and hit just .212/.232/.303. He went down to Triple-A and raked as an everyday guy, but right now, Pirela and Ryan have played in the exact same number of big league games this season, and Ryan has the higher batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage to say nothing of his more trusted glove.
In the past two and a half weeks, Ryan has hit .286/.333/.429. It’s only 15 plate appearances, so the sample size is tiny, but he hasn’t been such a zero with the bat that the Yankees absolutely have to replace him. For the year he’s hit .286/.333/.500 against lefties. That’s his job, and in the bigger picture, he’s actually done it pretty well.
Ryan hasn’t hit his way out of this role, and neither Pirela nor Refsnyder has necessarily hit his way in.
• Lately, center field has generated as many lineup questions as second base. Jacoby Ellsbury has hit just .208/.250/.325 since the All-Star break. He’s been especially bad in the month of September, hitting just .114/.152/.114, yet the Yankees are sticking with him in the leadoff spot. “He’s got too much of a history of being one of the better leadoff hitters in the game,” Girardi said. “He had a tremendous start, he went through the injury, he’s had his ups and downs, and to me he’s due to turn and have an up. These guys need to get it done.”
• Against a pitcher who struggles against right-handers, it’s worth noting that the Yankees’ only right-handed outfield alternatives are Chris Young (who’s hit just .185/.241/.346 against righties), Pirela (who’s been mostly an infielder in the majors) and Rico Noel (who’s here strictly to run).
• The Rays have scored the fewest runs in the American League, but that doesn’t necessarily this a great matchup for Yankees’ starter CC Sabathia. The Rays have actually hit lefties pretty well. They have a league-worst .694 OPS against righties, but they’re fifth in the A.L. with a .760 OPS against lefties (better than the Astros, Royals or Rangers).
• Top four hitters in tonight’s Rays lineup with their slash lines against lefties: Brandon Guyer (.267/.374/.422), Mikie Mahtook (.268/.375/.585), Evan Longoria (.352/.414/.568) and Logan Forsythe (.299/.373/.625).
• Girardi said yesterday that he would use Adam Warren as a reliever tonight if necessary, but the hope is to stay away from him and keep him lined up to start on Monday. Warren said it’s unusual but not really a problem to not know for certain whether he’s starting tomorrow. Said he’s familiar with each routine and able to bounce back and forth.
• Mark Teixeira is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes the player who “best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.” Each team nominates one player and a single winner will be announced during the World Series. Teixeira has been heavily involved with the Harlem RBI program as well as various scholarship programs. Former Yankees Curtis Granderson and David Robertson were also nominated.
Associated Press photos
With a bigger, sturdier brace protecting his right knee, CC Sabathia threw a four-inning simulated game this afternoon. Assuming no unexpected setbacks, the plan is to have him come off the disabled list to rejoin the rotation on Wednesday.
Less than two weeks ago, Joe Girardi was talking about the possibility of Sabathia’s season being over. Today he was talking about revisiting a six-man rotation down the stretch.
“We weren’t sure what we were going to get when we saw the MRI,” Girardi said. “And the good thing is the MRI came back basically the same as it’s been, which allowed us to proceed forward. And he felt better and felt comfortable wearing the brace, which allowed us to move a little bit faster. So I am surprised.”
The new brace is thick, the kind of thing you often see on players who have had elbow or knee surgery. It has a joint that bends with the knee but otherwise stays thoroughly secure. Previously this season, Sabathia was wearing a tight sleeve. It was restrictive, Sabathia said, which might have been the point, but it became a problem.
“That other brace, it was just a little too restricting,” Sabathia said. “This one gives me a little more range of motion and stops right before I can hyperextend, so I feel comfortable with it (pitching) and running around getting bunts and that kind of thing. … I think the brace kind of holds my knee in one spot, not letting me get that grinding feeling, twisting and turning. I tested it as much as I could, and I let a lot of them go, so I felt pretty good.”
Sabathia faced Dustin Ackley, Rico Noel, Austin Romine, Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder. That’s one left-handed hitter and four righties, which might have been the point. Sabathia said his biggest test was throwing fastballs inside to right-handers. Something about that was problematic with the old sleeve, but those pitches were comfortable this afternoon.
“I don’t feel (knee pain) at all on any pitch,” Sabathia said. “Before, I felt it on a couple of pitches here and there in the bullpen, here and there playing catch. Throughout this whole last 10 days of playing catch, I haven’t felt it one time with the brace on.”
With that, the Yankees are prepared to put Sabathia right back into their rotation. If he comes back on Wednesday, he will have missed just 16 days. He will also come back just in time to give the Yankees a sixth starter exactly when they will need one in order to give the entire rotation an extra day of rest.
“Physically, we’ve had concerns all year,” Girardi said. “And we’ve kind of done this (spot starter routine) all year. Sometimes we didn’t know who was going to make the start to break it up, but if everything is OK, we know. … The whole thing is to make the knee more stable and for him to feel like he can do what he needs to do. He can let it go without having fear that something might pop up. Hopefully it works.”
• Mark Teixeira stood on his own as he spoke to reporters in the Yankees’ clubhouse this afternoon, but when he walked away, it was on crutches without weight on his bruised right leg. “There’s a progression now,” Teixeira said. “I basically went from crutches to trying to run last time. Now that we know it’s a lot worse than first expected, there’s going to be a build-up from jogging to walking to running and making sure I can do everything.”
• Confident you’ll play again this season? “One hundred percent,” Teixeira said. “There’s no permanent damage. It’s just a really bad bone bruise, worse than we first expected. It’s unfortunate, but hopefully we have two months of the season left so there’s plenty of time for me to get healthy and come back.”
• Putting Teixeira on the disabled list wipes out any chance of getting him back in the lineup before the weekend, but the Yankees knew that wasn’t going to happen anyway. By putting him on the DL, they could bring back Nick Rumbelow a little bit earlier without waiting a full 10 days since he was optioned.
• Was the original injury worse than expected, or did trying to play through it make the injury worse? “Playing on it didn’t make it worse,” Teixeira said. “It just didn’t allow it to heal. That’s kind of the thing that we always knew, that, hey, you’re not going to make it worse by playing on it, but it just didn’t have a chance to heal. That’s why I’m back on the crutches, really letting the whole thing calm down and start from scratch. … Sometimes it takes more than 24 hours to get the full picture. We kind of went with our best guess the first time. We underestimated it a little bit. That’s the way it happens sometimes.”
• Probably goes without saying, but the Yankees are not pulling anyone out of the rotation when Sabathia comes back. There’s only one more scheduled off day the rest of the season. “We’ll insert him in here to give everyone an extra day’s rest,” Girardi said.
• A lot of attention on Stephen Drew’s bat these days, but you know who else is really hot? His double play partner, Didi Gregorius. “I think that Didi has grown up a lot in these five months,” Girardi said. “Playing every day, playing against lefties, allowing his talent to come out, gaining confidence each month, refining his swing; all of that. It’s your hope when you have a young player that it’s a transition that continues to go up and that’s what we’ve seen.”
Associated Press photos
Even after Brian Cashman said he was against it, Joe Girardi said yesterday that he was still considering the possibility of Alex Rodriguez getting a little bit of time at first base against left-handed starters.
Today, Girardi changed his tune.
“I just don’t think Alex is ready to do it,” Girardi told reporters in Boston.
Against a left-handed starter this afternoon, the Yankees are sticking with left-handed rookie Greg Bird at first base. Red Sox starter Henry Owens has reverse splits this season, so that might have factored into the decision (though Girardi tabbed Dustin Ackley, another left-handed hitter as the backup first baseman).
Aside from a month of reverse splits at the end of 2014, Bird generally put up better numbers against right-handed pitchers in the minors. His numbers against lefties weren’t awful, but he was significantly better against right-handers in both Double-A and Triple-A this season, so there’s reason for the Yankees to want at least some sort of right-handed first base option. Girardi has previously mentioned Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan and Austin Romine as possibilities, but today he’s sticking with Bird.
If the team is unwilling to let Rodriguez play first base for even a game against a lefty, it’s hard to imagine they’ll want him to play first or third during the three-game series at Citi Field later this month.
• CC Sabathia threw another bullpen this afternoon. Seems he could face hitters relatively soon. Brian Cashman has said the Yankees still see Sabathia as a starter, not a reliever, when he’s healthy enough to come off the disabled list.
• Jacoby Ellsbury is out of the lineup against a left-handed starter. It’s not unusual for one of the Yankees regular outfielders to sit against a lefty, but Ellsbury has been dealing with a hip issue, and Girardi acknowledged that there’s still some swelling. Girardi called this a healthy day off for Ellsbury, but there could be some desire to give him back-to-back days off with the scheduled off day tomorrow.
• Stephen Drew has six hits and six RBI in his past eight at-bats. With Owens having reverse splits anyway, the Yankees are sticking with Drew at second base for today’s game.
• Speaking of second base, Girardi said he’s not sure when Rob Refsnyder will play. Refsnyder was called up yesterday, but the Yankees have been using Brendan Ryan as their platoon second baseman, they’re clearly committed to Drew against right-handers, and they also have Jose Pirela as an additional right-handed second base option (plus Ackley as yet another second base option). A lot of possibilities at that position going forward.
• The Mariners announced today that they’d optioned Jesus Montero back to Triple-A. Even with expanded rosters. Ouch.
• Two days after the Yankees left Atlanta, the Braves’ box score from yesterday included some familiar names. Manny Banuelos started the game (six hits in 2.2 innings for the loss) and Danny Burawa finished it with two hitless innings and four strikeouts. Banuelos was traded to the Braves this offseason and Burawa was claimed by the Braves off waivers mid-season. Speaking of familiar names in new places: Nick Noonan, who opened this season as the everyday shortstop in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was one of the Giants’ September call-ups. He signed with San Francisco after being released by the Yankees this summer.
• The Yankees have won five consecutive series at Fenway Park since the start of 2014, going 12-5 in that span. They?last won six or more consecutive series at Fenway from September 21, 1956 to June 1, 1958. With a win today, the Yankees will have six straight series wins in Boston.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees expected to have Mark Teixeira back in the lineup on Friday. Now it’s three days later, and Teixeira is still not ready to play.
Instead of holding out more hope, the Yankees have sent Teixeira back to New York for more tests on his sore right leg. Teixeira hurt himself fouling a ball off his leg two weeks ago and has started only one game since. Joe Girardi said this afternoon that Teixeira will not play during this Boston series. Rosters will expand tomorrow, but for tonight, the Yankees will be short-handed.
“We’re not happy with where it’s at,” Girardi told reporters.
Teixeira is the Yankees’ leader in OPS (.906) and home runs (31). He ranks top three on the team in on-base percentage, walks and RBI. Greg Bird has been an encouraging young replacement, but his .255/.339/.412 slash line doesn’t have nearly the explosive power of Teixeira’s .255/.357/.548.
There’s also a matchup issue in play. Although Bird has handled both lefties and righties in his minor league career, the Yankees are a left-leaning lineup as it is, and Teixeira brought some switch-hitting balance. He has been much better against right-handers this season, but generally has been better against lefties in his career.
Without Teixeira, the Yankees don’t have a strong right-handed option at first base. Bird is a lefty (so was Garrett Jones), and now the Yankees are considering Alex Rodriguez as a first-base option for Wednesday when they face another left-handed starter.
Even when rosters expand, there’s not an experienced first baseman who hits right-handed in line for a call-up. Tyler Austin has played some first, but he’s stuck in Double-A and seems unlikely to join the team. Dustin Ackley has played some first, but he hits left-handed. Jose Pirela has a little first base experience, but he’s been there only once this season.
UPDATE, 5:33 p.m.: Brian Cashman said pregame that he would prefer to have Chase Headley at first base ahead of Rodriguez. I suppose that opens the possibility of Headley at first, Refsnyder at second and Ryan at third (or Pirela at second or third) against lefties.
Hard to make up for losing a player like Teixeira in any circumstance. Pressure might fall to the other middle-of-the-order hitters — not necessarily the replacement at first base — to pick up the offensive slack.
• From Meredith Maarakovits: CC Sabathia threw a regular bullpen today. It was his first time since going on the disabled list, and he’s expected to throw one more bullpen before facing hitters.
• Brian Cashman said pregame that the Yankees see Sabathia as a starter, not a reliever, when he comes off the disabled list.
• Girardi mentioned this weekend that he was considering the idea of Rodriguez at first base against a lefty. He’s not doing it today, but could use him at first base on Wednesday. Just my own opinion, but it might make more sense to wait until Wednesday to make that move when rosters have expanded and it’s easier to pull Rodriguez out of the game after the Red Sox go to their bullpen.
• As he’s said since Spring Training, Rodriguez told David Lennon that he’s willing to play wherever Girardi wants him to play, though Lennon notes that Rodriguez sounded “less than enthusiastic” about playing first again. Rodriguez really does seem to have grown to like the regular DH role. It’s kept him healthy so far, and he’s clearly found some success with that routine.
• Jon Heyman reported today that the Yankees put in a claim on closer Dave Robertson. That sort of thing isn’t unusual, and it’s little surprise that the White Sox pulled Robertson back without making a trade.
• Carlos Beltran is one double away from 500 for his career. His 30 doubles this season lead the Yankees and rank eighth in the American League. The only American League outfielder with more doubles is Michael Brantley, who has more than anyone at any position in the Majors this season.
Associated Press photos
The second opinion on CC Sabathia’s sore right knee was basically the same as the first. Another trip to another doctor revealed nothing Sabathia and the Yankees didn’t already know.
“It’s just arthritic,” Sabathia said. “It’s just a bad knee, like we knew. I think getting this rest will help.”
There’s no surgery planned, and Sabathia hopes that rest and rehab will get him back on the active roster as soon as he’s eligible to return from the disabled list in roughly two weeks. Of course, the specifics of Sabathia’s return are thoroughly up in the air and subject to change.
Will he be a starter? Is he better off in the bullpen at this point? Can he be reliable enough to have a spot in the postseason?
“I think we just have to see what his body can physically handle at this point what that knee can handle,” Joe Girardi said. “And then you try to make some decisions. … The thing is you hope it calms down, you rehab it, you strengthen it and you hope that he can be a player for us sometime in September. And you’re really not gonna know until you go through everything but it was better than what the alternative news could have been.”
Simply getting Sabathia off the disabled list won’t answer the bigger questions about his long-term health, durability and effectiveness. Even Sabathia himself acknowledged that for now his protocol is only designed to get him through another month (another two months all goes extremely well). At some point, though, he’ll have to tackle bigger issues.
“I think this is stuff that’s going to get me through the season,” Sabathia said. “I think what’s going to keep me pitching for years is just proper rehab and making sure that I go out and keep working and making sure everything is strong and going out and making sure my body’s good, I guess.”
It really does feel like guesswork. The Yankees know the problem, the question is what to do about it. Sabathia said that, short of simply not pitching, there’s really nothing he can do to fix the issue. The trick is figuring out how to deal with it. For now, he has no plans to continue babying the knee. When he comes back, Sabathia said, he’s going to be pitching at full force despite the obvious risk. He won’t be holding back like he was earlier in the season.
“It’s not that time for that,” Sabathia said. “That’s why I wanted to make sure I’m healthy and hopefully this rest will allow me to do that.”
For now, Sabathia said he simply wants to get back and find a way to be helpful in the short term. The long term will be an issue worth addressing in the winter. Even if he’s in the bullpen, Sabathia said, he simply wants to pitch again this season.
“Helping this team in any way I can is what I’m here to do,” he said. “If that means pitching out of the bullpen, then it is what it is. I’m not here to make that decision. That’s not (a decision) for me to make. If I’m healthy enough, I know I can start on any team. Let them make the decision.”
• After last night’s game, Mark Teixeira told Girardi to plan on having him in the lineup. It’s a good time to get him back because Dallas Keuchel is holding left-handed hitters to a .137/.167/.198 slash line this season. “We talked last night and he said, ‘Pencil me in,’” Girardi said. “And I said, ‘I’ll pencil you in.’ Saw him today, said ‘I’ll pencil you in, you go through everything and if something comes up and you feel like you need another day, take it.’ But the plans are for him to play.”
• How will the Yankees use Greg Bird now that Teixeira is back? “In Atlanta, obviously there’s pinch hit possibilities there,” Girardi said. “If you decide to give Alex a day off, maybe you DH Tex. If you give Tex a day, (Bird will play). We have a long stretch coming up. After this six, I think it’s 30 out of 31, so you’re going to have to spell the guys once in a while.”
• Dustin Ackley plans to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton on Thursday. I can’t imagine him being activated before rosters expand on September 1. Ackley said he expects his return to depend entirely on how he’s playing and feeling.
• Chase Headley’s surprisingly bad defensive season continued with his 20th error last night. “I think the last six weeks he’s played a lot better at third,” Girardi said. “I think the errors have not come at a rapid pace for him. He made a tough play yesterday and threw the ball away but I feel good about Head there. It’s just for whatever reasons he’s made a few more errors this year but he continues to work at it.”
• The Yankees have four left-handed hitters on the bench, obviously in reaction to Keuchel’s incredible success against left-handed hitters this season. Righties have a .606 OPS against the Astros’ ace, which isn’t great, but it’s a lot better than the lefties who have a .365 OPS against him. One bright spot: Keuchel hasn’t been overwhelming on the road. He has a 1.35 ERA at home this year, but a 3.65 ERA on the road.
Associated Press photos
CC Sabathia’s season might be over.
The Yankees today put Sabathia on the 15-day disabled list, and manager Joe Girardi acknowledged he’s not sure Sabathia will pitch again this year. An MRI revealed no new damage in his surgically repaired right knee, but the existing damage has obviously become a bigger problem this late in the season.
“It’s been maintenance all year long for us,” Girardi said. “We knew that going in, and we knew it could rear its ugly head. There were times where he had some shots before and was able to pitch and it didn’t seem to be an issue. But we knew it would take a lot to get him through the season, and yesterday was the first day that we had to pull him out.
“I didn’t necessarily think that we’d get to 24 starts before we had to pull him out of a game. I wasn’t sure of that going into spring training. I felt like we were pretty lucky up until yesterday.”
Sabathia said yesterday that he only recently started pitching with full force on the mound. He knew he was risking a setback, but the results when holding back simply had not be good enough. He let it go for a few starts and wound up on the disabled list.
Girardi said he was aware Sabathia had been trying to balance a need to protect his knee with a need to pitch well.
“I think it was extremely gutsy what he tried to do every fifth or sixth day,” Girardi said. “He knew if he gave everything he had, there was a better chance the knee would rear its ugly head. And if he gave a governor, he knew his stuff wasn’t quite as good as if he gave everything he had physically. So it was a balance for him that I think was difficult.”
For now, the plan is to give Sabathia rest and treatment. He won’t make the upcoming road trip to Atlanta and Boston.
“When we get back, we’ll see where he’s at,” Girardi said. “Is it possible that he doesn’t pitch the rest of the year? It’s a possibility.”
• With Sabathia on the disabled list, the Yankees will scrap their plan to have a six-man rotation going forward. Essentially, Michael Pineda will take Sabathia’s spot and the Yankees will have a five-man rotation — plus occasional spot starts — in the month of September. “If you have to be creative to give the guys an extra day, you can because you’ll have more guys in the bullpen,” Girardi said.
• Specifically, Bryan Mitchell will move into the bullpen once he’s healthy and cleared to come off the concussion disabled list. “Basically in long relief,” Girardi said. “We’ll still use him as a guy that could pitch out of the bullpen and give us a little distance.”
• Mark Teixeira took batting practice and fielded some ground balls this afternoon. He said swinging the bat felt much better today than it felt yesterday, and the ground balls were fine, but running is still a probably. Girardi said he would check with Teixeira to determine whether pinch hitting would be a possibility. Teixeira said he feels for the first time like he could pinch hit, but he obviously wouldn’t be able to do much running the bases.
• Sounds like today’s drills were encouraging for Teixeira — “Hitting was a lot better; fielding ground balls was a lot better,” he said — but that’s not the concern at this point. It’s running that continues to be a problem. “Once I can run close to normal, then I should be able to play,” he said. “… If I’m running at 50 percent, I’m no good at first base and no good at the plate, running around the bases.”
• Teixeira said doctors originally told him he’d likely need a week, and he’s now missed a week. Girardi said he fully expects Teixeira to be available by Friday when the Yankees will want a full bench for a National League series. If he’s not able to play by Friday, the Yankees will have to really consider putting him on the disabled list. “If I’m not (ready by Friday, I’m very disappointed,” Teixeira said. “I want to play tonight. I want to play every night, but it’s just not quite there yet running.”
• Chris Capuano was scheduled to start for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight. Instead, he was brought back to New York to yet again serve as basically an emergency long man. What a weird year that guy’s had.
Associated Press photos
First, a quick explanation. A few weeks ago one of my closest friends got married, and I was in the wedding, so I missed a few Yankees games to be a part of the ceremony. Yesterday, it was my one of my girlfriend’s closest friends getting married, and so I was back in New Jersey, vaguely following the Yankees on my phone. That’s why you didn’t see much on the blog beyond the late morning.
By now, though, you all know the news of the day.
CC Sabathia came out of yesterday’s game in the third inning. His right knee is giving him problems again, and he’ll almost certainly go on the disabled list. A look at what this means for the Yankees:
Sabathia couldn’t pitch last season. He got through eight starts and kept hoping to come back at some point, but he ultimately needed surgery to deal with degenerative damage in his right knee. That’s his landing knee, which has taken the pounding of a large frame through 15 big league seasons.
I’m obviously not a doctor, but I have to assume Sabathia’s weight would be a factor in his knee problems. Seems to be a lot of pounding, pitch after pitch, but maybe I’m wrong. Either way, I can’t imagine Sabathia feels any regret about his size. He’s been a big guy throughout his career. He won a Cy Young award at that weight. He also went to six All-Star games, won a World Series and developed a reputation as one of the most durable starters in baseball. Too big? I don’t know. He was awfully good for a long time, but like a lot of pitchers, he wound up hurt.
This season, Sabathia came back from surgery and stayed relatively healthy, but he had a knee drained a couple of times and was apparently feeling more discomfort than the let on. When August started, Sabathia’s velocity spiked and his numbers improved significantly. He had a 3.38 ERA in his past three starts before yesterday.
Turns out, he’d been letting it fly while knowingly hammering away at that bad knee.
“What else is there to do?” he told reporters including Brendan Kuty postgame. “Pitch how I’ve been pitching or go out there and try to compete? So I decided to give it everything I had.”
Sabathia doesn’t come out of games easily. He’s pitched through a lot in his career, and had been apparently pitching through some knee issues most of this season believing he could figure it out along the way. For him to come out of yesterday’s game suggests this isn’t a minor, one-time issue.
“I’m guessing it’s a DL off the bat because he left the field without throwing another pitch,” general manager Brian Cashman told The Associated Press. “It seems to imply that it’s something serious.”
So the Yankees are down a starter, but they’re also about to gain a starter. With or without the Sabathia injury, the Yankees were planning to have Michael Pineda rejoin the rotation on Wednesday. That means they have a five-man rotation already. Should they choose to stick with their plan for a six-man rotation in September, they could do that by making Bryan Mitchell a full-time starter when he returns from the seven-day concussion disabled list.
At the very least, it seems they’ll likely want/need Mitchell — or someone — to make a few spot starts during long stretches of games next month.
For right now, it seems safe to assume someone will join the Yankees’ bullpen to take Sabathia’s spot on the roster. Could be that more than one reliever will come up considering both Branden Pinder and Nick Rumbelow pitched multiple innings yesterday. Ultimately, though, the bigger decisions is choosing how to handle the rotation going forward.
Sabathia’s contract runs through 2016 with a vesting option for 2017. That vesting option kicks in as long as he doesn’t have a shoulder issue, which he doesn’t seem to have. Realistically, the Yankees are on the hook for two more years at $25 million per year. The notion that Sabathia somehow owes it to the Yankees to retire early is ridiculous. If he’s physically able to play, he owes it to the Yankees to work hard and try to come back as an effective pitcher, but who walks away from a contract after being hurt on the job?
Question is: what can the Yankees get out of Sabathia going forward? Is he going to pitch again in some capacity this season? Could injury legitimately push him out of the game, or is he going to be back in Spring Training trying to figure out how he fits the roster?
With Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova under team control for next season — not to mention Mitchell, Adam Warren and Chase Whitley — the Yankees have rotation options for next year, so Sabathia wouldn’t have to come to camp as a starter. Even when he was struggling this season, he was still awfully good against lefties (they’ve hit .183/.215/.287 against him this season), so perhaps he could be effective in a relief role picking his battles (at least early on) so that he faces primarily left-handed hitters.
Long-term contracts with pitchers — or any player, really — always carry significant risk of becoming a problem in the future, and right now it certainly seems that Sabathia’s contract will become one of those problems. His first four years with the Yankees were spectacular, but as he crept into his mid-30s with a lot of miles on his arm and body, Sabathia’s future has become much less certain.
Associated Press photos