New York Yankees lefty CC Sabathia has looked decent enough this year, but not so much recently. The big southpaw took the loss in a rough 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Tigers last night, giving up four runs and six hits, including two home runs, in six innings of work.
This marked just the second time in five starts since returning from a hamstring injury that Sabathia (9-4, 3.81 ERA) has managed six innings of work. He has averaged less than five innings per start over that stretch and is 2-2 with a 4.87 ERA.
There’s no other way to say this. CC Sabathia needs to be considered a candidate for being moved to the bullpen down the stretch. Being a hugely respected member of the clubhouse that has been with the team since 2009 makes that move highly unlikely, as is that limiting rookie Jordan Montgomery’s innings is sure to take priority.
But the fact of the matter is that Sabathia just doesn’t have as much in the tank as he did in his prime. Gone are the days where, win or lose, he was a lock to throw 120 pitches. The former Cy Young Award winner has thrown over 100 pitches in a start just once this season, and he now pitches with a knee brace to help fight arthritis that has affected his abilities.
With new additions like Jaime Garcia and Sonny Gray now on the roster, manager Joe Girardi needs to look at the bigger picture and consider what’s best for his rotation going forward. If that means putting the 37-year-old Sabathia in the bullpen, so be it. Whatever helps the team achieve its postseason goals down the stretch.
Yankees management also surely knows in the back of its collective mind that Sabathia, despite reinventing himself, is running on borrowed time. He is earning an eye-popping $25 million this season, the final year of what was initially a seven-year, $161 million contract, and has given few signs as to his plans for next year. Sabathia recently said on his podcast, R2C2, that he would only play where he could win and that combined with the fact that he makes his home in nearby Alpine, New Jersey, all signs point to him returning to the Yankees on a much cheaper one-year deal this offseason.
That would be fine if Sabathia continues to fare well as a location pitcher, but he has proven over his last two starts he could well be expendable down the stretch. Older arms that can barely hit 90 on the radar gun and are prone to giving up a lot of hits in a short amount of time aren’t of much value in the postseason, and even Sabathia knows that.
He has to be better over the next two months even if he was hamstrung last night by umpire Mike Estabrook’s strike zone and bad luck.
The long and short of it is that the New York Yankees settle for nothing but excellence, especially when a playoff berth hangs in the balance. If Sabathia can’t keep up to that standard in the immediate future, then Girardi will have to make the difficult decision to give his big lefty some time away from the rotation.
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