CC Sabathia left no doubt Thursday about his availability to pitch in relief beginning with Game 6 Friday night, saying he'll be down there all game waiting for the phone to ring.
Sabathia said nobody from the Yankees had approached him yet to gauge his willingness - or readiness - to pitch out of the bullpen beginning Friday night, but in Sabathia's mind, that was only a formality. His decision already was made.
"I'm going to the bullpen," Sabathia said before a reporter's question was even finished.
Joe Girardi later confirmed that "our plan is he's available," but the manager said he first wants to see how the lefthander is feeling in the hours leading up to Game 6. But Sabathia didn't seem the least bit concerned about how strong his arm would be, adding that Friday would have been his day to throw off a mound in the bullpen anyway.
"I won't throw a bullpen," he said, "because I'll be in the bullpen."
In the NLCS, the Phillies called on Roy Oswalt, their Games 2 and 6 starter, to pitch the ninth inning of Game 4 in San Francisco Wednesday night with the score tied at 5. Oswalt already had thrown his usual 20-minute bullpen session before the game, then gave up two one-out singles followed by a game-winning sacrifice fly.
Sabathia said he won't throw another bullpen session until after this series (and if the Yankees have advanced to the World Series, of course).
Sabathia estimated that he could throw 45 to 50 pitches if he is called upon in Game 6. He is coming off an outing in Game 5 Wednesday afternoon in which he threw 112 pitches in six innings. He gave up 11 hits to the first 25 batters he faced - allowing six hits in a span of nine batters in the fifth and sixth - and constantly pitched with men on base, but he didn't walk a batter and allowed only two runs.
Sabathia never has pitched out of the bullpen in any professional setting. He has made 322 regular-season starts in the majors, 13 starts in the postseason and another 51 starts in the minors.
But this won't be the first time Sabathia has been available in the bullpen during the postseason. When the Indians blew a 3-1 series lead to the Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS, Sabathia started Game 5 and watched Game 7 from the bullpen but wasn't called on to pitch.
Looking back on that series Thursday, Sabathia said the Indians believed they already were World Series-bound when they took the 3-1 lead and needed to win only one of three games.
"There was kind of no doubt in our mind we were going to get it done," Sabathia said. "We kind of took it for granted and lost that opportunity. You just felt like at some point you're going to win a game, and it didn't happen for us."
Sabathia has no idea whether the Rangers feel the same way the Indians did three years ago. But Sabathia thinks his teammates all believe they have more than a fighter's chance of winning this series.
"I just think the experience of being in the postseason and playing in these big games," he said, "gives everybody confidence to go out and play well."