The New York Yankees had to feel good about 33-year-old starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia heading into the season, but now they are probably second-guessing themselves. Sabathia had thrown 17-consecutive scoreless innings to end Spring Training before being shelled by the Houston Astros in his first start of the regular season Tuesday.
He eventually recovered and was able to slow his opponents down a bit, but the damage had already been done as the Astros put six earned runs on the board in the first two innings of the game off him. He bounced back to retire 13 of the next 15 batters, which is oddly representative of what the Yankees have gotten out of him over the past few years. He went 14-13 with his highest single-season WHIP and ERA in 2013. He still has the ability to contribute a great deal on some days, but on others, he hurts his team.
Ironically, Sabathia notched his 1,000th strikeout as a member of the Yankees, but it was still a start he would prefer to forget. He came into Spring Training a little bit more fit than he has in the past, and has been dealing with lost velocity over the past few seasons. He’s trying to figure out how to be a finesse pitcher as a guy who used to hit 96 mph with regularity. He’s not going to be able to rely on his fastball like he did in the past, seeing as it comes in closer to 90 mph in his later years.
Sabathia is just two seasons removed from arguably his best season as a professional. If they can figure out a way to manage his innings and treat him like the veteran he is, he could still help the Yankees win plenty of games this year, but if they try to treat him like the workhorse he used to be, they likely won’t be happy with the results.