CC Sabathia concerned about elbow, will see Dr. Andrews

CC Sabathia wipes his face as he stands CC Sabathia wipes his face as he stands on the mound in the first inning of Game 4 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. (Oct. 18, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

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CC Sabathia is headed for a return visit with noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in about 10 days to have his left elbow checked again, according to Brian Cashman.

Sabathia, who spent more than two weeks on the disabled list in August because of elbow inflammation, told reporters Saturday in the Bronx that he is "a little bit" concerned about the upcoming exam.

When Cashman was asked if he also is worried, he said in a text message that it will be Sabathia's second visit to Andrews, who first cleared him to pitch in August after failing to find any structural damage.

But the red flags went up on Sabathia again after ALCS Game 4 on Thursday, when the Yankees' $161-million ace allowed six runs and 11 hits -- including two homers -- in 32/3 innings. Sabathia didn't blame the elbow, though, saying only that "it felt good enough to pitch."

That's about as much as Sabathia could have hoped for after logging 200 innings during the regular season for the sixth straight year. He had two DL stints -- the first for a strained groin in June -- and when he returned from the second one, he finished 3-3 with a 2.93 ERA in his final eight starts.

With the Yankees trying to fend off the Orioles down the stretch and preserve an exhausted bullpen, Sabathia went eight innings in each of his last three regular-season starts, recording a 1.50 ERA with 28 strikeouts and four walks.

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That pretty much eliminated any concern heading into the postseason, and Sabathia twice came up big against the Orioles in the ALDS, allowing only three runs and coming within one out of pitching two complete games. In Game 5, Sabathia threw 121 pitches in a four-hitter, allowing one run and striking out nine to give the soft-hitting Yankees a push into the ALCS.

But it looked as if Sabathia hit the wall in Detroit. He never seemed comfortable in Game 4 and admittedly had none of his weapons working when he needed them the most.

"I was terrible," he said then. "I didn't make pitches. My changeup was a non-factor. My fastball command at the end wasn't good."

Afterward, in the visitor's clubhouse at Comerica Park, Cashman didn't hesitate to say Sabathia's elbow will be examined again, but he didn't mention Andrews at that time. Andrews, who is based in Birmingham, Ala., is a highly regarded elbow specialist, and a visit to his office often results in a follow-up surgical procedure.

With the unsettled nature of their pitching staff for next season, the Yankees can ill afford any prolonged absence by Sabathia. That makes his upcoming visit with Andrews one of the first defining moments for what is expected to be a busy offseason for this team.

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