CC Sabathia was so excited about the prospect of being a reliever in the postseason that in the last week of the regular season, he volunteered to pitch back-to-back days out of the bullpen.
Unfortunately for the retiring lefthander, Sabathia’s shoulder couldn’t hold up after even one relief appearance.
The Yankees revealed Thursday that Sabathia has been battling an undisclosed shoulder ailment and that it flared up after he made his first career regular-season relief appearance, a perfect inning with two strikeouts on Sept. 24 at Tampa Bay.
For that reason, Sabathia will not be on the Yankees’ roster for the American League Division Series against the Twins.
“I guess I was surprised the way it didn’t bounce back,” Sabathia said. “It’s been something that we’ve been trying to deal with the past couple months. Thought that we had a pretty good handle on it. I threw in that game in Tampa, and it felt pretty good, but I woke up a couple days later, and it was pretty sore. So we got the [cortisone] shot. Then I threw in the [simulated] game and thought it would feel a little better and it just didn’t bounce back like I thought it would.”
Sabathia said he will continue to work on getting ready to pitch in later rounds if the Yankees advance. But if they don’t, or if they do and he can’t, his 19-year career will be over.
“I do feel like the longer we go, it’s a better chance that I can get back out there,” Sabathia said. “We’re going to keep working, keep doing things in the training room to try to get back out there.”
Sabathia said he has a new role for the ALDS, just not the bullpen one he was hoping to have.
“Just rooting, cheering, being there for the guys,” he said. “Just try to be there as much as possible, whatever role I can be in, and obviously still working to try to get back out there myself.”
Sabathia said his focus is not on worrying if this is the end of his career.
“I’m just looking forward to having a chance to participate in the playoffs,” he said. “Hopefully get healthy enough and just be around here for the playoffs. I’m not really focused on it being my last time or whatever. Just trying to focus on winning the championship.”
Sabathia announced in spring training that this would be his last season. He has battled knee issues and the shoulder issue. He did manage to appear in 23 games and go 5-8 with a 4.93 ERA while being celebrated around the league for his massive impact on the game.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “It’s been a good year. Obviously, everything I had to do to stay on the field with cortisone shots and different things like that, it’s tough. I knew what I was in store for coming back, just with my knee and my shoulder and stuff, but having a chance to win the division, having a chance to play — be — in the playoffs and hopefully win a championship, is why I came back.”