CC Sabathia is in the final two months of his career. Limping to the end is not what he envisioned. A significant role in the postseason remains tenuous at best…
CC Sabathia has finally met a “hitter” he can’t retire – his knees. Facing the end of a brilliant career, he will retire at the end of this season with no regrets. His body gave all it had.
Sabathia is literally on his “last legs.” With a spot in Cooperstown all but assured, CC Sabathia mostly watches from the sidelines as others do nearly all of the weightlifting in the Yankees charge to their 28th World Championship.
Sabathia has made three painful trips to the Injured List this season, all related to knees scheduled for replacement. This forebodes risky business for the New York Yanks as they continue their plans to assemble their pitching staff for the postseason. What role will they have for CC Sabathia, if any, in those plans?
First, let’s dispell one matter immediately. CC Sabathia will be on the Yankees postseason roster come hell or high water. If there is any such thing in baseball these days, Sabathia has earned that right. J.A. Happ has not, and therefore he’s the one the Yankees will be forced to shun in favor of a stronger bullpen.
Sabathia is not out of the woods, though. Two or three years ago, he was a shoo-in to start Game 1 of all postseason series. Times have changed. CC knows it, and the Yankees know it. Which leaves Sabathia – where?
Yankees Rotation In The Postseason
The Yankees, like all teams in the playoffs, need four, not five starting pitchers. Barring injuries (applies everywhere), Masahiro Tanaka will get the call from Aaron Boone for the opener, regardless of who the opponent is. Tanaka has rediscovered his split-finger pitch and has been the most consistent of all Yankee starters.
From there the Yankees will go to Domingo German in Game 2, James Paxton in Game 3, and Luis Severino in Game 4. As a series moves along, Boone has the option of using Shane Greene as an Opener in Games 3 or 4. The name CC Sabathia is missing from that list.
This means, of course, that Sabathia’s role will be in the Yankees bullpen. He’ll be available as a long man in any of the contests. But more likely, Aaron Boone will relish using Sabathia for one or two batters in a tight spot with the game on the line.
Fans will recall, for instance, when Joe Torre called on David Cone to empty his tank in Game 4 of the 2000 World Series to face one batter. Cone went on to retire Mike Piazza, propelling the Yankees to a win over the Mets. (Video)
Luis Severino is a wild card in the Yankees plans though. Every day the news gets better and better from the Yankees camp regarding Severino’s progress on the sidelines. If the Yankees deem his arm strength is not capable of delivering 75-90 pitches in a playoff scenario, they will not risk putting Severino or the team in that situation.
For Sabathia though, It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over
You know what’s coming next, right? Yup, that development could lead to Boone tapping Sabathia to start Game 4. Or, the option to use Greene as the opener, followed by Sabathia for the middle innings before the A-Team in the bullpen takes over in the seventh inning.
As we know, everything goes out the window in the postseason. After Tanaka and German, nothing is written in stone. Everything becomes dictated by game situations and the status of a particular series. If, for example, the Yankees are up 3-0 in a seven-game series, they are not likely to use Severino, with the $30 million owed to him for the next three seasons at risk.
In that case, CC Sabathia would get the call from Aaron Boone, allowing Sabathia to close out his career in a fashion he and his fans only dream about.
All things must pass. No longer in the front of the line, the remarkable thing about CC Sabathia is he is standing in line at all. If at all possible, Aaron Boone will figure out a way to move Sabathia closer to the front of the line, somewhere – somehow, during the postseason.
It’s a rare thing in baseball to say this with any authority – but the Yankees do owe Carsten Charles Sabathia that much.