TORONTO — CC Sabathia already has set the date of his return.
“August 24,” he said. “That’s the day I’m pitching.”
The Yankees ace didn’t say “maybe,” or “hopefully” or “if all goes well.”
Sabathia said he is sure that whatever is ailing his $191 million left elbow will clear up within the next two weeks and will allow him to come off the disabled list Aug. 23, the soonest he is eligible to return.
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“I feel like in a couple of days, I’ll be fine,” he said.
Sabathia acknowledged, however, that he was frightened by what he said was the first arm problem he ever had experienced in his 12 major-league seasons, especially when he woke up the day after his start against Seattle on Aug. 3 and couldn’t raise his left arm high enough to touch his shoulder with his hand.
“I woke up the next day, and my arm was kinda swollen, and I didn’t really have any range of motion,” he said. “So I was really nervous, honestly.”
And his first reaction was to conceal it from the team and hope it would go away on its own.
“It was tough, even going in and telling (trainer Steve Donohue),” Sabathia said. “I didn’t know what was going to come back, what was going to happen. I wasn’t going to say anything, but my wife was going to call Stevie herself if I didn’t say something. She made me go in there and tell him.”
Sabathia had an MRI after that start, in which he threw a complete game in beating the Mariners, 6-3, for his 11th win of the season. The MRI came back clean, so he was allowed to start last Wednesday against the Tigers in Detroit.
Sabathia won that one, too, but exited after just 6 1/3 innings, after which manager Joe Girardi was deliberately circumspect about removing his ace unusually early in a game.
“I just felt it was time to go to (David Robertson),” he said.
But now, it turns out that Sabathia experienced more pain and stiffness in his elbow during that game and needed to heat the area and even throw some pitches in the tunnel between innings to continue.
“I thought I had good stuff — as good stuff as I’ve had all year — in Detroit,” Sabathia said. “I know I can pitch with it.”
That is why, Sabathia said, he argued long and hard with Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman against going on the disabled list for the second time this season. He also didn’t hide his displeasure with the final decision.
“This was not my decision,” he said. “I definitely argued. I thought I stated a pretty good case. It was a long conversation, and after the game they just told me they made a decision.”
And, he reluctantly admitted, “I understand why they did it.”
Girardi believes shutting down Sabathia for what he believes will be just two starts, and limiting the number of innings he will throw this season, may revitalize him for the playoffs.
“I think it could be good for him just because of what he’s had to throw the last five or six years,” Girardi said. “Cash and myself, we have to make decisions that we feel are good not just for tomorrow but down the road, next month. It’s not easy putting your ace on the DL.”
Sabathia said the trouble spot is in the muscle area in the back of his elbow, leading him to believe there is no ligament damage.
“Once the MRI came back clean, I knew it was something I’d have to deal with,” he said. “I know there’s nothing structurally wrong with my arm. Everybody pitches through a little pain.”
As far as Girardi is concerned, the toughest thing might be keeping his ace off the field even for the 15-day minimum stay on the DL.
“CC would go out there with a broken body part if you let him,” Girardi said. “That’s what you want out of a player. It’s difficult not having him out there, but we’ve got to find a way.”
Asked if he could pitch today if it was October and it was a playoff game, Sabathia gave a two-word answer: “Of course.”
Yankees’ Sabathia targets minimum stay on DL
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