MIAMI — CC Sabathia won the fifth starter’s job over Ivan Nova, the Yankees announced Friday.
How long the veteran lefthander gets to keep it is another story.
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“CC’s got it for now,” general manager Brian Cashman said in a lukewarm endorsement of the former Cy Young Award winner. “We hope he keeps it. We hope he keeps it the whole year. But we’ll see how it goes.”
Sabathia, who was confident throughout spring training that he was not going to be put in the bullpen, hardly reacted when asked about the news that manager Joe Girardi delivered to him Thursday.
“Ready to go,” Sabathia said. “Just ready to go. Now it’s time to really work.”
Sabathia will start against the Tigers in Detroit next Saturday. Nova will be in the bullpen when the Yankees open the season on Monday against the Astros at Yankee Stadium.
“I still consider myself a starting pitcher,” Nova said. “I told you guys from the beginning this was going to be a tough competition. We’re talking about CC Sabathia. Even though I think I did my part to stay in the rotation, I knew and I was preparing for that moment. I’m good.”
Nova, who threw six shutout innings against the Braves on Wednesday, had a 4.13 ERA in spring training. Sabathia’s ERA was 5.51.
Girardi said the Yankees hope Sabathia will resemble the pitcher who had a 2.17 ERA in five starts last September and October, not the one who has been injured and ineffective for most of the last two seasons.
“A lot of it came down to CC’s September last year,” Girardi said. “He’s been there so many times.”
Even Girardi hedged, though, adding: “The decision that sometimes you make in April isn’t necessarily what happens in May.”
Cashman, who said Sabathia’s $25-million salary had “zero” to do with the decision, said: “I can’t tell you what specifically tipped the scales. If I had to count off the top of my head, you had probably 16 people in the room and there was a lot of opinions. And in the end, Joe and [pitching coach Larry Rothschild] had to make the final call, and we’re going with CC. But I’d say it wasn’t an easy call.”
Cashman said Sabathia’s stature in the clubhouse was not a factor in determining who would get sent to an unfamiliar spot in the bullpen.
“Not for me,” he said. “Not at all. It should and only should come down to who is going to give us the best chance every five days. Obviously, we made not a clear-cut decision, but a decision.”
Cashman wouldn’t say how many starts Sabathia will get to prove he deserves to keep the job.
“I can’t tell you how long a leash it is,” he said. “It’s just, listen, when you’re in the fifth spot . . . I think any fifth starter in the game’s got a shorter leash. So hopefully that was the right call and hopefully he’ll do well and pitch well for us.
“CC was bad in the beginning of the spring and his last few outings were much better. We made not an easy call. That’s why it took so long. It’s not like we were trying to delay it out. The longer it takes, the more obviously it’s not obvious, I guess is just the best way to put it. It’s just not an obvious, slam-dunk decision. So the calendar’s forced us to make a decision between the two, and we made it.”