CC Sabathia has hamstring strain, is done for season
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As spring training began in February, a longtime scout of an opposing team shook his head as he considered the collective age of the Yankees' roster.
"It really could be a conga line to the DL with them," he said.
The dance continued Monday morning when the Yankees announced that CC Sabathia suffered a grade 2 left hamstring strain during his Friday start against the Giants and is done for the season.
"It's obviously not what you'd prefer, but it is what it is," general manager Brian Cashman said by phone early in the afternoon. "You have to face it."
The Yankees, who have had 20 different players hit the disabled list this season, have done a lot of that.
The club said Sabathia's injury "requires a recovery time of approximately eight weeks," meaning even if somehow the Yankees make it to the postseason, the 33-year-old lefthander won't be a part of it.
The Yankees host the Rays, whom they trail by five games with six to play, Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series. Coolstandings.com estimates the Yankees have less than a 1- percent chance of earning a wild card.
Sabathia has called his 2013 season "embarrassing" and "terrible," among other descriptions, finished 14-13 with a career-worst 4.78 ERA, including 6.08 in the second half. In 32 starts, he allowed a career-worst 28 home runs and a league-leading 112 earned runs.
"The bottom line is he didn't have the year he's used to having or we're used to seeing," Cashman said.
Sabathia's fastball velocity has been a season-long topic, and for good reason. His four-seamer's velocity has dipped steadily during his Yankees career, from a high of 95.07 mph in 2009 to 92.00 this season, according to the online PITCHf/x tool. His sinker has gone from 94.42 mph in 2009 to 91.05 this season.
"Two things that stood out were his velocity being down and the home runs are up," Cashman said. "Obviously, the home runs really victimized him, and that can be a fluky circumstance. At the same time, his strikeouts per nine innings and walks per nine innings mirror his 2009 and 2010 performances and he won 19 and 21 games those years. There's hope that, obviously, next year will be better if he can limit the home run damage that exploded a little bit this year. But I don't know yet."
Sabathia's strikeouts per nine innings in 2009 were 7.71, compared with 7.46 this season. His walks per nine innings in 2009 were 2.62, compared with 2.77 this season. In 2010, the splits were 7.46 and 2.80.
"We have to heal that hamstring up and get him rehabbed well and look for ways to have a better year next year," Cashman said. "
What next year will bring, regarding not only Sabathia but the entire starting staff, is anyone's guess. As of now, only two pitchers are assured of being in the rotation -- Sabathia, owed $71 million over the next three years with a $25-million option that vests if his shoulder is healthy, and Ivan Nova.
On Friday, Andy Pettitte announced his intent to retire. Phil Hughes (4-13, 5.07) is a free agent, and it is far from certain if 38-year-old Hiroki Kuroda will decide on one more year in the Bronx.
Among the internal options are David Phelps, who struggled with inconsistency; Adam Warren, primarily a long man this year, and Michael Pineda, whose weight gain this season as he recovered from shoulder surgery has many in the organization concerned. Manny Banuelos, the once-hyped lefty prospect, missed all of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
One club insider said, given the alternatives, the return of Hughes can't be ruled out.
"That's all for another day," Cashman said. "We're fighting right now for 2013. We'll deal with 2014 another day."
That opportunity would seem to be days away. The Yankees were one game behind in the wild-card chase as recently as Sept. 13, but were swept in Boston and haven't been the same.
"We have to win out and look for help elsewhere," Cashman said. "It's the reality of the circumstances we've created."