One day after being placed on the 15-day DL with right knee inflammation, CC Sabathia went for a second opinion today, which confirmed he has no new damage in the knee. It’s simply some arthritic stuff that requires rest. Sabathia does not need surgery, neither now nor in the offseason.
Sabathia told reporters he hopes to return to the team after his 15 days are up, and added he is willing to pitch out of the bullpen should the Yankees ask. “Helping the team any way I can,” he said. For what it’s worth, Joe Girardi said moving Sabathia to the bullpen is something they won’t discuss until CC is actually healthy enough to pitch again. Makes sense.
The overall numbers are ugly this year (5.27 ERA and 4.82 FIP in 138.1 innings) but there is reason to think the 35-year-old Sabathia could be effective in relief. For starters, he still destroys lefties, holding them to a .180/.209/.291 (.218 wOBA) batting line with a 30.4% strikeout rate this year. Secondly, Sabathia is at his best the first time through the lineup (via Baseball Reference):
|1st PA in G, as SP||24||215||21||51||8||0||8||15||42||2.80||.258||.313||.419||.732||.291||108|
|2nd PA in G, as SP||24||209||30||60||5||2||7||11||44||4.00||.314||.351||.471||.822||.368||126|
|3rd PA in G, as SP||22||167||25||51||4||2||11||9||24||2.67||.331||.370||.597||.967||.333||150|
|4th+ PA in G, as SP||7||12||1||2||0||0||0||2||3||1.50||.222||.333||.222||.556||.286||53|
Righties have crushed Sabathia this season (.388 wOBA!), but, if he’s limited to facing mostly lefties in one or two innings bursts, it’s possible he’ll be an effective reliever. Not just effective, maybe even really good. A late-inning weapon.
Sabathia has made just one career relief appearance and that was in Game Five of the 2011 ALDS, when Ivan Nova got hurt and had to leave after two innings. CC allowed a run in 1.1 innings. Moving to the bullpen — if it happens, of course — would take a bit of an adjustment on his part, though September is a good time to work through those issues thanks to expanded rosters.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Sabathia was just placed on the DL yesterday, so he’s at least two weeks away from being activated. That assumes his knee heels up quickly. We’re just going to have to wait and see. Hopefully Sabathia gets healthy soon and the team has to make a decision about his role because everyone else on the staff is healthy and pitching effectively.