With a subluxation of his left shoulder joint, CC Sabathia walked off the mound in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS for the final time in his career. He was replaced on the roster by Ben Heller and will be an observer for the rest of the Yankees playoff run.
But he admitted that being moved to the bullpen had him thinking about pitching into the next decade.
“I told Amber last night that this was the best way for it to end for me, because of the way I’ve been feeling, loving the bullpen, jogging out, feeling pretty good. I feel like about July of next year I’ll be like, I think I can pitch,” Sabathia said Friday afternoon.
Sabathia said he felt fine warming up but hurt it during the eighth inning. He was able to throw three more pitches to George Springer before he couldn’t throw any longer. He walked off the mound to cheers from the Yankee Stadium crowd.
“I think that’s what got me more emotional than actual injury,” he said. “Just hearing the fans and the way that they were cheering me and it was just — makes me feel good. Makes me feel like I made the right choice 11 years ago. I love these fans. I love this organization. It was just awesome to hear that and get that on the way out.”
The 39-year-old spoke about the two-and-a-half hour process it took to get on the mound from the hot tub to the training room to the weight room.
“And as you get older, that’s the part I used to laugh at Andy Pettitte about, and now I’m going through it or went through it,” Sabathia said. “But it’s just part of it. And it’s rough. But it makes it all worth it when you can get out there.”
Astros manager A.J. Hinch caught Sabathia in spring training of 2003. He spoke about Sabathia’s maturity back then, though the southpaw was only heading into his third season in the majors.
“He was very polished as a young player, emotionally and in the clubhouse, and very engaging personality,” Hinch said. “But the stuff was real. I had faced him as a hitter before I caught him. And it was amazing to have somebody that big, that physical, that athletic back in the day be able to do so much on the mound — and a lot was done to him as a young player, 19, 20 years old when he first got into the big leagues.”
Aaron Boone was a teammate of Sabathia’s a little longer, with the Indians in 2005.
“One of the greatest things CC has, and I think is one of the greatest things on a human being, is he’s kind of dripping with humility. That’s real,” Boone said. “That’s who he is. A lot of people can come across that way; CC is that. And it’s why I think he’s beloved in there but across the sport and really with anyone he comes in contact with. But as far as a ballplayer, a competitor, and a teammate, it’s hard to draw it up any better than CC Sabathia.”
Sabathia will be enshrined in Cooperstown, likely in 2025. He won 251 games and struck out 3,093 batters. A six-time All-Star, he won the 2007 AL Cy Young with the Indians and was the 2009 ALCS MVP with the Yankees.
And what was the best part of it all?
“I always felt like being the pitcher of the game, stopped and started on me,” Sabathia said. “And I kind of felt like I was in control all the time and that was just the best part about it is 50,000 people in the Bronx and s—- don’t start until I’m ready, so that was the best part.”