At 7:10pm on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, the New York Yankees will send their veteran 36-year old left-hander to the mound.
CC Sabathia will be trying to help the club to its first victory of the nascent 2017 season. The host Tampa Bay Rays ripped the Yanks by a 7-3 final in Sunday’s season opener. For Sabathia, this will be his 17th season in Major League Baseball.
The first-round pick at 20th overall in the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft by the Cleveland Indians, he spent most of his first eight seasons with the Tribe. He was a three-time AL All-Star with Cleveland. In his final full season there, Sabathia won the AL Cy Young Award.
Sabathia was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers at the 2008 trade deadline and helped the Brew Crew to an NL Wild Card berth.
Following that ’08 season, Sabathia signed a huge nine-year, $202 million free agent contract with the Yankees. His first season in the Big Apple resulted in the Yankees winning the World Series. Sabathia finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.
In each of the subsequent two seasons, Sabathia again finished within the top four of the AL Cy Young race. He was an AL All-Star each year from 2010-12.
SABATHIA BEGINS TO SLIP
It was the following year that his performance really began to slip. Sabathia made his 32 starts and tossed 211 innings in 2013. It was the seventh consecutive season that he passed the 200 IP mark.
At that point in his career, Sabathia had thrown at least 180 innings in each of his 13 seasons in the big leagues. It would also prove to be the final time, at least to date.
Eight starts into his 2014 campaign, Sabathia was done for the year. He was diagnosed with a degenerative knee condition.
Sabathia was able to return, but his last two seasons have shown him to be a shell of his former self. Over 59 starts, he has allowed 360 hits in 347 innings with a 289/115 K:BB ratio. He has also given up 50 home runs over the two seasons.
This year, Sabathia is slotted into the #2 spot in the Yanks’ rotation to begin the season behind Masahiro Tanaka. Following those two, the Yankees rotation is full of unproven kids and major question marks.
For the Yankees to do anything this season, Sabathia needs to be effective over 30+ starts. This is the final year of that big contract, likely his final season in pinstripes.
What can the Yankees hope for, reasonably? If Sabathia can give them 180 innings, keep his ERA around the 4.00 mark, and allow fewer than 20 homers, it’s a win.
Actually getting that production may be difficult. His knee could go at any time, with his age and size as increasingly relevant factors. Once again, and for a final time, Sabathia is in the Yankees rotation. The big question remains, can he make it a memorable last hurrah?