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Alex Rodriguez: 'We play for CC now'

CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez of the New

CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees celebrate in the locker room after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Yankees don't need extra motivation for Tuesday night's wild-card game against the Astros. They win or they go home.

But they have extra motivation, anyway, to win for a teammate who will not be at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night.

"We play for CC now," Alex Rodriguez said.

The news that CC Sabathia has decided to enter an alcohol rehabilitation facility was treated with nothing but support inside the Yankees' clubhouse Monday on the eve of their playoff game.

Sabathia was the winning pitcher Thursday when the Yankees clinched a wild card. It was his sixth victory in a difficult season on the field in which he has battled a knee problem and ineffectiveness. Until Monday, no one outside his inner circle was aware that he also was battling off-the-field issues.

"Nobody was more excited the other night to clinch a spot in the postseason than CC," Brett Gardner said. "You definitely would like to play well and advance and make him proud."

Yankees special adviser Reggie Jackson, who has been in a few big games, said: "You play harder because you've got one of your own family members hurting.

"He's like a son to me . . . I'm with him. Like every player, every person here in our organization. We're with him. He's loved. He's a special guy."

What about the timing and how it might affect the team? Sabathia had been pitching well and was going to be in the bullpen Tuesday night. If the Yankees advance, he would have been starting at least one ALDS game.

The Yankees said they don't care about that. This is about a person, not a ballplayer.

"This obviously comes at a bad time for the team," Gardner said. "But at the same time, whatever time he decided to step up and get help, whether it's Oct. 1 or April 1 or in the middle of the offseason, that's the time he needs to get it done. So we just fully support his decision."

Said Rodriguez: "He's our brother. He has our unconditional support . . . It's a very courageous thing to do. CC's gone to the mat for us many times. I know me personally and a lot of us in here wouldn't have a ring if it wasn't for CC. So now we go to the mat for him."

Sabathia has been a leader since he joined the Yankees for the championship season of 2009. He's a pied piper for the young pitchers and is especially close to Dellin Betances, who has the locker closest to Sabathia's.

Sabathia's locker was empty Monday and will remain so as long as the Yankees last in the postseason. But that's a secondary concern to his teammates.

"He's a big brother to all of us," Betances said. "I'm here for him in whatever he needs."

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