CC opt-out top offseason priority

CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees during batting practice prior to game five of the American League Division Series. (Oct. 6, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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During spring training, CC Sabathia had a chance to shut down speculation that he would exercise the opt-out clause in his contract after the 2011 season, and he passed.

"I have no idea," he said of opting out. "Anything is possible."

After the Yankees were eliminated by the Tigers in ALDS Game 5 Thursday night at the Stadium, nothing had changed.

"Of course it's a decision," he said. "It's there. Like I said, [we'll] just see. I can't even begin to tell what I'm thinking right now or what's going to happen."

That isn't to say Sabathia, who has four years and $92 million left on the seven-year, $161-million deal he signed before the 2009 season, is going anywhere. He lives in the area full-time, having relocated from his native California, and has embraced the leadership role, on the field and in the clubhouse, that has been bestowed on him.

"I love it," Sabathia said early Friday morning, referring to being a Yankee. "I loved it since Day 1 spring training when I got here. So we'll just wait and see what happens."

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Could he envision himself playing in any uniform other than the pinstripes next season? "I can't even wrap my head about that right now," Sabathia said. "I'm just thinking about what I didn't do to help us win. Maybe in the next couple days, next couple weeks, I'll think about that and see what happens."

Yankees president Randy Levine chose not to speculate on the figures that will be discussed if Sabathia does opt out.

"No one's talking about that today," Levine said Friday. "We're still getting over the disappointment."

With Sabathia probably not inclined to relocate his family again and the Yankees having no desire to find another ace to anchor their rotation, common ground shouldn't be too difficult to come by.

A figure in the neighborhood of the $120 million over five years that 32-year-old Cliff Lee received from the Phillies last offseason isn't out of the question. There is some concern in the organization about the 31-year-old Sabathia's apparent weight gain in the season's second half, though, and the negotiations likely won't be simply a matter of the pitcher saying what he wants and getting it.

Sabathia once again proved to be one of the most durable -- and successful -- pitchers in the sport, going 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA. But he was 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA in his last nine regular-season starts, allowed 10 hits in five of his last 10 starts and had a 6.23 ERA in the ALDS.

Still, it's difficult to imagine a split taking place.

"He's our ace, so he ranks highly," general manager Brian Cashman said of where Sabathia stands on the offseason priority list. "I can't predict how everything goes. We'll just take this thing one day at a time . . . The winter's come upon us, but I'm not here to talk about the winter right now."

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RHP Ivan Nova, who left Thursday's Game 5 after two innings, emerged from the MRI tube Friday with good news -- no surgery necessary. Nova saw team physician Christopher Ahmad at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and had an MRI that showed a Grade 1 flexor strain of his right forearm. The Yankees announced "the injury is expected to heal without complications this winter." Joe Girardi pulled Nova, who had not lost a game since June 3, going 12-0 with a 3.25 ERA in his last 16 starts of the regular season, after two innings Thursday. Nova allowed two first-inning home runs before throwing a scoreless second inning, one in which he threw 19 pitches. Nova, who will go to spring training as the No. 2 starter behind Sabathia -- assuming the lefthander is back -- said he felt stiffness in the forearm "every pitch I threw in the second inning."

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