The worst season of CC Sabathia's career came to an unceremonious end, as the Yankees lefthander will be sidelined for eight weeks by a left hamstring strain. Sabathia spent part of a news conference Tuesday lamenting his lost season, but he also vowed to return to dominance next year.
"I think I'll be back to myself," Sabathia said. "I know a lot of people have written me off and said I've thrown too many innings and whatever, whatever. But I'll still be here and still be accountable and still be the guy that signed up in 2009."
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Sabathia initially proved worthy of the $161-million contract he received from the Yankees before the 2009 season. He led the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009 and was a consistent top-of-the-rotation force, posting a 74-29 record with a 3.22 ERA in his first four seasons in pinstripes.
But Sabathia declined significantly this season. The 6-7, 290-pounder lacked his customary velocity and finished with a 14-13 record and a career-worst 4.78 ERA, which ballooned to 6.08 in the second half.
"It is frustrating and it's tough," Sabathia said. "You feel like you let your teammates down."
Sabathia's final start of the season was one of his best. He limited the San Francisco Giants to just one run in seven innings in a 5-1 win Friday.
Sabathia felt something wrong with his hamstring in the second inning of that start, but didn't mention the injury until after the game. He initially planned to take his next turn in the rotation, but as the pain set in in the following days, it became clear that wouldn't happen.
As Yankees manager Joe Girardi looks ahead, he is drawing optimism from Sabathia's final start.
"I still look at him as an ace," Girardi said. "I know he had his ups and downs this year, but I was impressed by what he did on Friday. It just leads me to believe that next year is going to be different."
The Yankees have little choice but to believe Sabathia can rediscover his form because they owe him $71 million over the next three seasons with an additional one-year, $25-million option that vests if his shoulder is healthy.
The 33-year-old has topped 200 innings for five straight seasons, which underscores his value as a workhorse but also leads to concern if the load will take its toll. Sabathia concedes that he likely will never throw as hard as he once did. But he believes he was finally making mechanical fixes on the mound and he plans to watch video of opponents before starts, which he hadn't done in the past.
"The easy thing is to question him. The harder thing is to say he's going to turn it around, and that's what I believe he's going to do," Girardi said. "I just know the competitive nature of CC. That just tells me that he'll figure it out and he'll get back on top."