Saying he is in need of help and expressing a desire to become "a better man, father and player,'' CC Sabathia announced on the eve of the Yankees' wild-card game against the Astros that he was checking himself into an alcohol rehabilitation facility, making the lefthander unavailable to the Yankees as long their postseason run lasts.
"We play for CC now,'' Alex Rodriguez said, synopsizing the overwhelming clubhouse reaction. "CC's gone to the mat for us many, many times. I know for me personally and a lot of us in here, we wouldn't have a ring if it weren't for CC [in 2009]. So now we go to the mat for him.''
Joe Girardi said Sabathia, 35, asked for a meeting Sunday before the game in Baltimore.
"The first thing he said is, 'I need help,' '' said Girardi, who added that "shock'' was his first reaction. "And then it went forward.''
Through the Yankees, Sabathia released a statement early Monday afternoon.
"I love baseball and I love my teammates like brothers, and I am also fully aware that I am leaving at a time when we should all be coming together for one last push toward the World Series,'' he said in the statement. "It hurts me deeply to do this now, but I owe it to myself and to my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease, and I want to be a better man, father and player.''
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he got a call Sunday afternoon during which Sabathia and others discussed the issue. Cashman said Sabathia left Baltimore on Sunday and returned home.
"I think CC's demonstrated a great deal of courage to try to tackle this problem,'' Cashman said. "The time and place have no bearing. There's something here that needs to be taken care of and I applaud him for stepping up and doing everything necessary to solve this problem for himself as he moves forward. We just talked to our club, and everybody in the Yankees' organization, from ownership on down, is supporting CC. We'll see him another day.''
Sabathia, almost universally revered in the clubhouse, went 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA but was 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his last five starts. He was in line to be included in the 25-man roster for the wild-card game and to start an ALDS game against the Royals if the Yankees advanced.
"What CC is dealing with is a life issue,'' Cashman said. "It's bigger than the game we have tomorrow night. And so because of that, it's vitally important that gets put in the proper perspective and place. He needs to tag out of this situation, which is a lot of high-end pressure, and really take a step back and get the professional help necessary. Because he's not alone in this. He's not alone in this because he's not the only one walking this planet dealing with this problem.''
In August, Sabathia made headlines when TMZ released video of him being restrained from going after hecklers in the early-morning hours outside a Toronto nightclub. Cashman said he naturally wonders about the incident in a different light now but isn't focusing on it.
"The fact that he is tackling this in an honest and open way, the fact that he's doing it right before our postseason starts, you take a step backward and acknowledge the courage that must take,'' Cashman said.
"Will we miss him? Of course we're going to miss him. Could we have used him? Of course we could have used him. But none of that stuff matters given where we're at and the circumstances that he's dealing with.''