TAMPA – CC Sabathia will ease into spring training, but the Yankees are not yet certain if it will impact the start to his final big-league season.
The Yankees’ 39-year-old left-hander is expected to reaffirm on Saturday that 2019 will be his final season, retiring at the end of the year. After signing a one-year, $8 million contract with the Yankees last November, Sabathia announced that this would be his final year in the big leagues.
“This will be it,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.
The big lefty underwent knee surgery and a procedure to clear his arteries this winter, slowing down his ability to workout and prepare. So he is coming into spring training already behind schedule.
“We’ll slow play him. Had the issue with the heart and had the stent put in,” Yankee skipper Aaron Boone said. “Glad to say that’s all going really well, but it also slowed down his workout routine and coming off the knee surgery, slowed his rehab process, so we’ll be careful with him in the early days. We’ll slow play him the first couple weeks.
“He probably won’t throw his first bullpen for a couple more weeks. He’s doing well, but we’ll make sure his body and his conditioning we feel really good and he feels really good when we start to ramp him up on the mound.”
Sabathia will not begin throwing bullpens for a “few weeks,” meaning his normal spring training progress will be behind the rest of the rotation. Boone said they will re-evaluate where the veteran is in about two weeks.
He would likely not break camp with the big league team anyhow. Instead, he would serve the five-game suspension he received last September for intentionally throwing at Jesus Sucre in retaliation for Tampa Bay’s Andrew Kittredge throwing at the head of Austin Romine.
Sabathia was ejected from that game six outs shy of reaching the 155 innings mark and a contract bonus. The Yankees, however, still gave him the $500,000 bonus.
A six-time All Star and the 2007 American League Cy Young award winner, Sabathia went 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts in 2018.
This will be his 11th season with the Yankees, where he is 129-80 with a 3.74 ERA and 1,593 strikeouts.
Already the depth the Yankees were counting on in their rotation this offseason is being tested by injuries.
Mike King, a fast-rising minor leaguer invited to major league camp, was shut down for three weeks after being diagnosed with a stress reaction in his elbow.
King began the season in High-A ball and rose to Triple-A, posting a posting a 1.79 ERA for the season.
While Didi Gregorius is “doing really well” with his rehab from Tommy John surgery, Boone said Wednesday the Yankees are being very cautious with him. The shortstop began light throwing this week, but is not expected to hit for three or four more weeks. Gregorius is not expected to return until June or July.
Boone said that while Troy Tulowitzki looks to be healthy and free of the multitude of injuries that have plagued him over the last few years, the Yankees will be cautious with him this spring.
“Obviously we have to see if he can bounce back,” Boone said. “We’ll try and be very vigilant as far as his schedule goes, obviously communicating with him with where he is at, but trying to develop a plan that kind of evolves a little bit.”
Boone said should there be an issue with Tulowitzki, who the Yankees picked up at the major league minimum, they are comfortable sliding Gleyber Torres over to short and using D.J. LeMahieu at second.
DOTS ALL FOLKS
Boone said that Luke Voit has earned the right to come into camp with “a leg up” in the competition at first base. Still the Yankee manager said he recognizes that Greg Bird has a high ceiling and he is impressed with how Bird came into this spring. … Aaron Hicks to be “in the mix,” for the leadoff spot as he puts together his lineup for the season, Boone said.