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CC Sabathia’s first game back from IL was as rough as rest of his final season has been

2019-08-18

The best thing that happened Sunday, when CC Sabathia returned from the injured list to make his first start in over three weeks, was hours before he even threw a pitch. Sabathia was not sharp Sunday as he got knocked around and left early in the Bombers’ 8-4 loss to Cleveland.

The Yankees (83-43) and Cleveland (74-51) split the four-game series. Only DJ LeMahieu’s seventh inning, two-run home run and his RBI single and Aaron Judge’s RBI double in the ninth kept the Bombers from being shut out for the first time in 208 games.

But hours before that, the Yankees got to see Luis Severino climb back on the mound at Yankee Stadium and throw pitchers to hitters for the first time all year. Coming off the mound, Severino — rehabbing from a rotator cuff and lat injury — was all smiles, confident he would be back sometime next month.

After watching Sabathia struggle through a four-run second inning, Severino’s progress was reassuring for a Yankees team that has World Series aspirations and a lot of rotation questions.

Sabathia was charged with four runs on four hits. He walked three and struck out five in just three innings work.

The need for Severino became even more clear with CC Sabathia’s pitching the Yankees series finale against Cleveland on Sunday. The 39-year-old left-hander is battling an arthritic knee that he said will likely need to be replaced.

The Yankees expectations for him on Sunday were not high.

CC Sabathia doesn't have much left in him. (Kathy Willens/AP)

“Certainly we won’t have a lot of length with him today for the amount of time he’s been down and not have a rehab assignment,” Boone said. “Hopefully he can go out and give us a handful of really good innings.” And the expectations for him in the postseason can’t be too high either at this point, but the Yankees do not have a lot of other options. GM Brian Cashman struck out trying to improve the rotation at the trade deadline. His attempts at reinforcing it this offseason have not paid off, missing on Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel and having J.A. Happ and James Paxton being inconsistent to say the least this season.

And Sabathia is having a rough final year in the big leagues.

Sunday he came off his third stint on the injured list. He took his seventh loss and his ERA ballooned to 5.01. The three-run home run he gave up to Cleveland’s No. 9 hitter, Mike Freeman, was the 25th he has allowed this season in 93.1 innings pitched this year.

So, Severino’s return before the postseason is crucial for the Yankees.

Sunday, he took his final step with the big league club before he returns. Severino heads to Tampa this week while the Yankees go out to the West Coast. He expects to throw at least another simulated game against hitters before he hopes to be able to make a minor league rehab start. With the minor league seasons ending at the beginning of next month, the window to properly stretch Severino out is closing quickly. The Yankees, however, have said there is the possibility of using him in short spurts and stretching him out in big league games.

Even in small doses, however, getting Severino back onto the staff will be a big boost for the Yankees.