I have to admit that I wasn’t a believer. I did not think that CC Sabathia could make the transformation from a young dominant power pitcher to a crafty veteran at the top end of a starting rotation. Weight issues, age, injuries, alcoholism…whatever the cause…I didn’t think he could do it. He has proved me wrong.
After Saturday’s 3-2 win over the St Louis Cardinals, Sabathia leads the team with a 2-0 mark, compiling a 1.47 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts. While the most dominant single game belongs to Michael Pineda, Sabathia has been the most dominant overall.
I had gotten to the point where I thought of Sabathia as a five inning starter. Yet, here he was on the mound on April 15, 2017 at 36 years of age, throwing 7 1/3 innings, allowing only three hits and one run with just one walk. He punched out six. THAT was not the Sabathia that we had come to expect in recent years.
I am so glad that he has been able to make the transformation. I don’t know if it is the time he has spent with Yankees legend Andy Pettitte but we tend to hear Pettitte’s name come up a lot in interviews with not only Sabathia but other pitchers when they talk about success. Pettitte’s annual visits to training camp for a few days always seem to have such a tremendous impact. I think Pettitte is an assistant on a high school coaching staff these days, but I would love for his return to New York as an eventual successor to Larry Rothschild.
At the beginning of the year, I felt it was obvious this would be Sabathia’s final year in Pinstripes. With the youth movement in full bloom, I didn’t see a future for Sabathia or a veteran’s salary in Team Hal’s budget for 2018. If Sabathia expects to make his 2017 salary ($25 million) next year, I still think it’s unlikely he returns. He’ll have to take a pay cut to stay and perhaps he will. But for now, I am just enjoying the ride. I love watching Sabathia’s accomplishments this year, and I know that he is a huge influence on the younger pitchers. If Sabathia, Pineda and Severino can continue pitching like their most recent starts, this is definitely a team that can outperform expectations in 2017. Of course, Greg Bird does need to start mixing in a hit or two.
I was reading an interview with Jordan Montgomery this morning. Or should I call him “Gumby”? I had to laugh when I saw him refer to the famous Serendipity 3 on 60th Street as “some dessert place”. Give him time. He’ll figure the City out. If he keeps pitching like we know he can, he’ll be here for a very long time.
With the inability of Matt Holliday to play on Saturday due to lower back stiffness, I hope this is not a sign of things to come. His final years with the Cardinals, while he was still playing in the field, came with significant DL stints. I had hoped the ‘DH-only’ role would help preserve his health. Hopefully, this is just an aberration and he’ll back with bat in hand shortly. The loss of Holliday did show the significance of having Chris Carter on the roster as Carter provided what proved to be the winning run in Saturday’s game with a run-scoring single in the sixth inning.
As for Greg Bird, he needs to figure this out soon. His 1-for-26 start is dreadful. I remain hopeful that he’ll work through the challenge and will start to hit like he did in Spring Training. He is too much of a professional hitter for the current sample to be representative of his ability going forward. No offense to Chris Carter, but I strongly prefer Bird at first in any scenario. I wish that Tyler Austin was closer to returning but he’s not an option for now and there’s no one else in the organization that would be superior to the current duo of Bird and Carter. Rob Refsnyder is only hitting .192 in AAA and Ji-Man Choi is not on the 40-man roster. Choi is batting .280 but he has only 2 RBI’s and no home runs.
I hate to be politically-incorrect, but the words of former Arizona Diamondback Mark Grace resonate in my ears when I think of Bird’s slump. “A slumpbuster is if a team’s in a slump, or if you personally are in a slump, you gotta find the fatest, gnarliest, grossest chick and you just gotta lay the wood to her. And when you do that, you’re just gonna have instant success. And it could also be called jumping on a grenade for the team.” Bird, just do it…take one for the team.
Have a great Sunday! Hopefully, it will be a sweeping success for the Yankees!