Yankees' CC Sabathia says he's playing it smart with DL decision

ByColey Harvey ESPN logo
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

NEW YORK -- During his past two outings, New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia has felt pain in his right knee that reminded him of similar issues he tried to fight through exactly one year ago.

He didn't want to go through them again.

"Last year at this point, I tried to push through," Sabathia said Tuesday, discussing his proactive decision Monday to go on the 10-day disabled list. "I didn't want to make that same mistake."

The mistake he made was trying to keep pitching despite having a flare-up of the arthritis that has nagged his knee at times the past several seasons. He felt so much pain during a start at Toronto last August that he was forced to leave that game after just three innings. He went on the disabled list immediately.

This time around, Sabathia's trip to the DL came more out of a desire to give the degenerative knee some late-season rest than any specific problem. Officially, the 38-year-old has been diagnosed this week with right knee inflammation.

"I told [manager Aaron Boone] I probably could've made my next start and pushed through, but the next one I probably would've been down," Sabathia said. "I'm just trying to listen to my body. I knew it was time, and not trying to push it when I really don't need to, if that makes any sense."

That echoes much of what Boone said following Monday night's Yankees loss to the Mets.

"The swelling wasn't very bad, which is a good sign," Boone said. "So we do believe it's just one turn through and hopefully something that benefits him down the stretch."

It was in the second inning of Sabathia's outing Sunday when the hefty left-hander went to the ground, landing awkwardly as he fielded a short comebacker from Texas Rangers left fielder Joey Gallo. Although he threw wide as he tried to get Gallo at first, the play was ruled an infield hit, and it was the only base hit Sabathia allowed in a six-inning start.

Sabathia said Tuesday that play and other recent plays like it didn't really have any impact on the swelling he had been feeling lately.

"Oddly enough, it doesn't hurt when I'm like, I feel like I'm making a play when I'm actually falling down. I don't hurt myself when I'm doing that," Sabathia said, sitting in front of his locker. "It's just like warming up and in between innings and all the extra stuff. If I could just go out from right here and go to the mound, I could probably pitch."

Despite pitching through a little pain in his past two starts, Sabathia still has posted some of the better numbers of his 18th season. He's allowed just five hits and one earned run across the 11 2/3 innings he's thrown in those games.

In 22 overall starts, Sabathia is 7-4 with a 3.32 ERA. He has 106 strikeouts, seven of which came in his win Sunday.

"It's frustrating because when I'm out there and my knee's hurting, I'm not even thinking about making a pitch," Sabathia said. "I'm just trying to not have it hurt. I'm doing what I can to not have it hurt. Yeah, to go out and still be pitching well, not really locked in on the game, is encouraging, I guess."

Along with Sabathia, the Yankees are hoping recent DL stints will help a pair of other key players. Aaron Judge (chip fracture of the right wrist) may be able to finally pick up a bat this week, according to Boone. And catcher Gary Sanchez, who re-aggravated a groin injury on July 23, is taking big steps to getting back in New York's lineup.

As for Judge, his wrist's "range of motion is really good right now," Boone said. But the Yankees still are waiting for the pain to completely ease.

"That feeling has to go away," Boone said. "Once that happens and he gets a bat in his hands, hopefully he starts to progress pretty quickly."

Judge has been out nearly three weeks after getting hit on the wrist by a pitch July 26.

Sanchez went on the DL two games prior, but he said Tuesday that his groin hasn't bothered him since the start of this month. Sanchez still doesn't know when he might be able to return, but Boone said once the catcher heads back to the team's facility in Tampa next week that he could be in line to begin playing in rehab games there.

While Sanchez has started doing more catching work in his rehab, he still has yet to hit on a field, and he also has yet to run at 100 percent on a field. Even once all this reconditioning is done, Sanchez knows he'll have to wait until he knows his groin is fully healed and he's able to truly push it.

"The real test is going to come in games," he said through a translator. "If I hit a ground ball and I start pushing myself, that's where the real test is going to be."