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CC Sabathia hopeful about Robinson Cano, upbeat about himself

Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia shouts out while

Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia shouts out while leaving the mound after giving up a run to the Boston Red Sox during the fourth inning. (Sept. 14, 2013) Credit: AP

CC Sabathia, the top free agent in the game five winters ago, had this advice for Robinson Cano, this year's top guy:

"Stay here,'' he said, laughing.

Cano officially became a free agent this week, and although the Yankees remain the heavy favorite to retain him, nothing is guaranteed.

"I think it's important,'' Sabathia said of re-signing Cano. "I've played with him five years now and I think he's the best second baseman in the game. Obviously, he's one of my good friends and we'll just have to wait and see what happens.''

Sabathia said he'll be happy to participate in the sales pitch to any free agents the Yankees are interested in. "I'm down for recruiting,'' he said. "I want to win. It was hard to watch the Red Sox win the World Series this year. You want to be in that spot. Whatever you have to do to get the guys to come play, it's what you've got to do.''

Sabathia spoke at Lucky Strike in Manhattan early Friday evening at a pre-event party for the CC Challenge, a scavenger hunt that will take place Saturday in Central Park. It will benefit the PitCCh In Foundation, the charity run by the pitcher and his wife, Amber.

Sabathia, 33, is coming off a season he has called "terrible'' and "embarrassing,'' one in which he went 14-13 with a career-worst 4.78 ERA. He missed his final start because of a grade 2 hamstring strain, an injury he said is completely healed.

"I haven't had any problems, any setbacks,'' he said. "I've been working out a hundred percent doing all my lifting and everything and felt fine.''

He said he has not dwelled on the disappointment of 2013 -- a season in which his fastball dipped to 90 to 92 mph -- but isn't trying to bury it, either.

"It'll never be behind me entirely,'' said Sabathia, who has started his throwing program, unlike last winter, when he was coming off elbow surgery. "I think some of that, what happened last year, will drive me to hopefully be better in the future. Keeping that back there [in his mind] will help to not get too comfortable and keep working and trying to get better.''

Notes & quotes: All of Joe Girardi's coaching staff will be back next season: Tony Peña (bench), Larry Rothschild (pitching), Kevin Long (hitting), Mick Kelleher (first base), Rob Thomson (third base) and Mike Harkey (bullpen).

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