CC Sabathia tries to keep it positive

Starting pitcher CC Sabathia of the Yankees delivers Starting pitcher CC Sabathia of the Yankees delivers to home plate during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. (July 26, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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SAN DIEGO -- CC Sabathia has been given to moments of candor in what has been the worst season of his career.

And that was the case Friday night when he again struggled in a 7-2 loss to the Padres.

Asked if he is worried, Sabathia said: "Of course. Who wouldn't? But I'm going to keep battling."

A minute later, he said "it's hard" to continue to take the mound with confidence.

However -- and he stressed this several times -- "I feel it's going to turn. It just hasn't yet."

Why?

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"It's baseball," he said. "It has to. And I want it to."

That is an understatement, just as it is to say the Yankees want -- and need -- it as well.

As Joe Girardi said after Friday's game, if his club has any hopes of making a run at either the AL East title or an AL wild card, it will have to do so on the broad shoulders of Sabathia.

"We need him to be CC if we're going to make a run," Girardi said.

But as one talent evaluator said, Sabathia's diminished velocity, an oft-discussed topic, is going to make that turnaround difficult.

Sabathia no longer is able to set up hitters with an overpowering fastball that used to consistently hit the mid-90s. Hitters are sitting on off-speed pitches, among the reasons he has allowed 24 homers, a career worst for a single season.

After allowing five runs and 11 hits in 52/3 innings Friday, the lefthander dropped to 9-10 with a 4.78 ERA. In his last four starts, Sabathia has allowed 27 runs (22 earned), 37 hits and 10 walks in 192/3 innings. He is 0-3 with a 10.07 ERA in that span.

"I know that I'm not making pitches and that I'm getting behind and getting in hitter's counts," Sabathia said. "But you can't think about that during the game. You have to go out and try to block everything out and make the next pitch."

Though Hiroki Kuroda has been the rotation's top pitcher for two straight seasons, Sabathia takes his responsibility as "staff ace" seriously.

"We're battling and I'm not helping us," he said. "We've dealt with a lot this year, and me not being able to help us is killing me . . . I'm not saying that I'm better than anybody else, but I feel like I need to be strong."

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Chris Stewart said Sabathia's stuff isn't that much different from past seasons, though at times this season, the catcher has talked about the adjustment Sabathia is going through with slightly diminished fastball velocity, an issue every power pitcher eventually deals with.

"It's tough [and] he's probably putting more pressure on himself," Stewart said. "He knows he is the guy that this team relies on and he knows he can be a lot better than what he's been showing out there. It's just tough to see him go through it."

Speaking late Friday night, one person who didn't seem especially concerned with Sabathia's troubles was Derek Jeter. "I don't care who you are or how good you are, at some point you're going to struggle," he said. "If you guys can think of a player who's played this game and never struggled, I'd like to see it. You've just got to just work through it. CC will be fine. You just have to battle through it."

And coming back to the confidence topic, Sabathia said he's OK in that area. "Confidence-wise I feel pretty good,'' he said, "because I feel like it has to turn, it's going to turn, but it's just not at that point yet. I'll keep working, keep working in the bullpen and hopefully this will turn around for me."

He and his team can't wait.

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