NEW YORK — CC Sabathia is unsure if Tuesday will be the final time he pitches in pinstripes, but he knows it won’t be the last outing of his career.
“I definitely want to play next year,” Sabathia said Monday night before New York’s biggest loss in the postseason.
Which team Sabathia plays for will be a topic for the off-season, but now the focus is on his start Tuesday night, when he will be tasked with trying to save the Yankees’ season in Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the rival Boston Red Sox.
Sabathia will be making the 23rd postseason start of his career, and his first since taking the loss in Game 7 of last year’s AL Championship Series.
“We feel like CC physically is in a good place right now coming off a really good start at the end of the year,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “His knee is in a good place and feel like he’s been pretty good when we’ve been able to give him that rest.
“We feel good about giving him the ball.”
Sabathia has said multiple times this season that he has no plans to hang up the cleats, but it carries some extra weight now that he’s completed his 18th regular season. The 38-year-old left-hander went 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts.
While Sabathia provided consistency, the Yankees could look to upgrade their rotation this off-season or opt for internal options. Re-signing J.A. Happ is a possibility, and the team has highly touted-prospect Justus Sheffield ready to step into the rotation.
The Yankees signed Sabathia to a one-year, $10 million deal this past off-season, and it’s plausible that the sides could agree to another low-cost deal. This is his 10th season with the Yankees, and he’s well respected in the clubhouse.
“I’ll play anywhere,” said Sabathia, who’s also pitched for Milwaukee and Cleveland. “I still want to pitch. I definitely can help and still get guys out. So whoever needs me.”
Sabathia acknowledged he’s recently pondered his future.
“Just trying to figure out how long I want to play and all those types of things,” Sabathia said. “I haven’t given it much thought, but the last couple of months I’ve thought about the Hall of Fame or my career, things like that, as I get to the end.”
The Yankees are going to need Sabathia to deliver this postseason if they are going to win their 28th World Series, and the lefty has been quite good for them in the playoffs. He’s 8-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 18 postseason games (17 starts), and 5-1 with a 1.76 ERA in eight games (seven starts) at Yankee Stadium.
Last season, the Yankees trusted Sabathia with the ball in two elimination games – in Game 5 of the ALDS and Game 7 of the ALCS, and he pitched well both times.
“I get excited for these games for sure,” Sabathia said. “Just try to stay even keel and go out and pitch the best I can.”
This Boston lineup provides a tough challenge for Sabathia as it showcases some of the best righty power hitters in the sport, including Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. Sabathia is not the power pitcher of his younger days, and needs to hit his spots to be effective. Otherwise, Boston’s power hitters are going to feast.
Sabathia likely will not pitch deep into the game with the Yankees having all hands on deck being on the verge of elimination.
“Top to bottom, it’s a tough lineup. They’ve got speed, they’ve got power. They take a lot of pitches,” Sabathia said. “Bad lineup for me in the fact they take a lot of pitches, they’re patient, and they do a good job of working the count. I’m just trying to be aggressive in the strike zone, attack, and try to get some swings early in the count.”
Teammate Brett Gardner is confident Sabathia will deliver.
“I know CC about as well as anybody and I have the utmost confidence he’s going to go out there and give us a chance to win,” Gardner said. “There’s nobody else I’d rather have out there in a must-win game than him, maybe Andy Pettitte.”
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, have an abundance for every good work. – 2 Corinthians 9:8
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