TAMPA -- When Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia entered alcohol rehab on the eve of the playoffs last season, he said he felt "nervous" and "scared." Five months later, he is thankful he finally addressed a problem that he says had lingered since 2012.
Looking slightly slimmer, Sabathia could not wait to slip on his uniform and be around his teammates again.
"This is the most anticipated spring training for me in a long time," Sabathia said during his first news conference of the spring.
Sabathia, 35, was once the Yankees' ace, but he enters this spring fighting to win the fifth starter spot. With Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi the top four starters, Sabathia and veteran Ivan Nova will be competing for the last spot in the rotation, barring injury.
"There has been a lot of conversation about him fighting for a spot in the rotation," Girardi said. "I look at it we have six guys that have a really good opportunity to be in the rotation. With Bryan Mitchell, you could say seven. Our goal is to take the best five guys. Things have a way of working out. We'll see how things play out and go from there to see where we are."
Girardi said the Yankees will begin the season with a five-man rotation. At times last season, they used a sixth starter.
Sabathia is owed $25 million for this season. If he does not injure his left shoulder, he will paid another $25 million in 2017 by the Yankees.
Sabathia said he feels better physically and mentally and that his weight is down from 312 pounds at the end of last year to 305 to begin the spring.
"I kind of knew I was an alcoholic in 2012 and was trying to get help through different things, but I never really sought the professional rehab way," Sabathia said. "I think just some of the tools I've learned in there, just kind of identifying getting ahead of it is the biggest thing, keeping myself occupied. I have a bunch of different hobbies and do different things.
"I'll be able to keep myself busy with video games and hanging out with my teammates. That's something I got away from the past few years, just shutting myself in my hotel room and doing my deed. I'll be out with my teammates, hanging out with the guys -- in the same role I was when I first got here, very social."
With regard to his pitching, Sabathia was encouraged with how he finished last season on the mound. Despite going 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA overall, Sabathia had a 2.17 ERA in his final five starts before going to rehab. He credits a knee brace that he used for his surgically repaired right knee.
"I'm excited what it has done for me," Sabathia said of the brace.