Professional athletes rarely concede much publicly, especially to age.
So it was a bit jarring to hear CC Sabathia bluntly discuss his diminished velocity this season, and the possibility it could be permanent, after Wednesday night's's 4-3, come-from-behind win over the Diamondbacks at the Stadium.
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"I'm hoping my velocity comes back,'' Sabathia said. "But if not, then we'll work with this.''
It's been working just fine, though much has been made of it. The Yankees' ace, long used to throwing consistently in the low to mid-90's, has sat pretty much at 90 mph all season. Yet he still won his third straight game after a subpar performance on Opening Day.
And the victories, in which the 32-year-old lefthander has allowed four earned runs in 23 innings, have come against the highly regarded Tigers, Orioles and Diamondbacks.
"It's something that everyone's going to go through,'' Sabathia said of power pitchers losing velocity. "We'll see if this is my time.''
He struggled through a 31-pitch first inning, allowing Paul Goldschmidt's two-run homer off a misplaced changeup, before settling down. Sabathia, who wanted to give up on the changeup but stuck with it at the insistence of catcher Francisco Cervelli, lasted eight innings, allowing three runs and six hits.
"For Cervy to stick with the changeup was huge,'' said Sabathia, who walked one and struck out six.
It took an unlikely rally to put Sabathia (3-1, 2.57) in position to win, which the Yankees (8-5) did for the seventh time in eight games.
Wade Miley, a lefty who made last year's NL All-Star team, shut them out before walking Jayson Nix with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh to make it 3-1. Kirk Gibson brought on lefty Tony Sipp to face Brett Gardner, 1-for-3 to that point. Gardner worked the count to 2-and-2 before slicing a two-run single to left, tying it at 3.
"Two outs and the bases loaded, it's pretty much all on you,'' said Gardner, who is 15-for-42 (.357) with the bases full. "It feels good to come through.''
Travis Hafner won it in the eighth with a two-out homer off righty David Hernandez. Hafner's fourth homer of the season and fourth career pinch-hit homer had the Stadium as loud as it's been all season.
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save.
But most of the postgame discourse revolved around Sabathia, who candidly talked about what an aging power pitcher experiences.
"It's reality,'' said Sabathia, who had offseason surgery to fix a bone spur in his pitching elbow. "You never know, I've never been through anything like this, so I don't know. But I'm not going to lose sleep over it.''
Joe Girardi wasn't quite ready to make that concession.
"I think it'll improve,'' Girardi said. "I think you'll see 92s, 93s and maybe some 94s. It's just going to take some time.''
Sabathia, who used to ramp it up over 95 mph, isn't discounting the possibility of his velocity increasing. He did say getting used to pitching at 88-90 "definitely is going to be hard.''
But he said it helps having veterans Andy Pettitte and Rivera to lean on for advice.
"I've been pitching for a long time, eventually this is going to happen,'' Sabathia said. "There's nothing I can do about it.''