TRENTON, NJ – Yankees starter CC Sabathia, making his second rehabilitation start since being placed on the disabled list May 11 due to right-knee inflammation, earned mixed reviews after his Trenton Thunder stint Wednesday night.
The veteran Sabathia, placed on the 60-day disabled list earlier this week, did not look like he’s ready to help the Yankees yet, though he hopes to,
“‘It’s been tough to watch what’s going on, and it’s tough not being there to help,” he said, after a 55-pitch (33 strikes) effort over 3.2 innings that was completed just before heavy thunderstorms in the Mercer County area suspended the Double-A Eastern League game between the Thunder and Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox).
“I really felt good.”
Sabathia, with one pitch clocked at 93, but sat mostly between 88-91 with his fastball, had his issues with the Sea Dogs, who have the best record in the Eastern League at 55-28, allowed five runs (three earned), five hits, walked one, struck out two and hit a batter. Both his strikeouts came on change-ups.
Several balls were hit hard, and errors by Thunder third baseman Rob Segedin and second baseman Dan Fiorito pushed up his pitch count, but Sabathia is not close to returning to the Yankees rotation.
“I was pleased with my fastball, although one was hit for a triple,” he said. “I need to work on my secondary pitches. I didn’t think I was effective with those tonight.
“I thought this was progress over my last outing in (Class-A) Tamps (where he threw 37 pitches. I’ll pitch again tomorrow if they let me.”
Sabathia is a pitcher in transition. He needs to command his secondary pitches in exemplary fashion due to his drop in velocity. If that is the case, he can be effective, spotting a fastball at 92 here and there. Pitchers such as Frank Tanana and Bartolo Colon have made such a transition.
That is the challenge facing the 33-year-old, who is under contract to the Yankees through 2016 with a vesting option for 2017 on an 8-year, $182 million deal.
“You guys make too much of my velocity,” Sabathia told the gathered writers. “I’ve been pitching for 14 years (in the majors). I know what I can do.”
Yet, he was 3-4, 5.28 in eight starts with the Yankees, not what is needed. The Yankees hope, with two seasons plus the vesting option, remaining. The vesting option in 2017, for $25 million kicks in if Sabathia does not end 2016 on the disabled list with a left-shoulder injury and does not spend 45 days on the DL in 2016.
The plan was for Sabathia to make two more rehabilitation starts in five and 10 days respectively. His pitch count would increase in each.
He is aiming to help the Yankees as soon as he can. His right knee and his body overall is feeling good. He feels he is making progress toward getting back on the mound in Yankee Stadium.
Based on what was seen in Central Jersey, Sabathia’s not nearly there yet.