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CC Sabathia ready to go, but the knee will remain a problem

The Yankees' CC Sabathia pitches during the first

The Yankees' CC Sabathia pitches during the first inning against the Orioles on May 22 in Baltimore. Credit: AP/Nick Wass

CC Sabathia declared his right knee good to go for his start Sunday night against the Red Sox. But that doesn’t mean the knee is good.

That won’t happen for the 38-year-old lefthander until he retires after this season. He'll likely require a knee replacement.

“I feel my knee if I’m walking from here to the bathroom,” Sabathia said with a smile.

But Sabathia, placed on the injured list the day after he experienced significant pain in the knee during his May 22 start in Baltimore, has been doing in-season maintenance on it since at least 2014. He received a cortisone shot in the knee shortly after going to the IL and had the knee drained.

“I felt pretty good about it the whole time,” Sabathia said of his initial thoughts that this IL stay would be a short one. “When I got back [to New York], we did the drainage and got the shot and stuff. It wasn’t swelling after we drained it, so I knew once I got the shot I’d feel pretty good right away, and I was able to play catch the next couple of days. So it felt pretty good.”

Sabathia, 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA in eight starts, entered the season fully expecting to need a stint — or two or even three — on the IL to deal with a knee that has long been an issue. The Yankees anticipated it as well.

“This [IL stint] happened later [than expected],” Sabathia said. “I felt pretty good coming into the year. I thought it would be a little sooner.”

Sabathia said handling the knee is a matter of being “smart about it.”

“Not try to push when I don’t really need to,” he said. “That’s kind of what Baltimore was. Could I have pushed through it and made a couple more starts? Yeah, but I probably would have been where I was at in August of ’17 [after a start in Toronto] where I was ready to go home and quit. I just don’t want it to get to that point again.”

The Yankees, who went 20-7 in May, were winning with Sabathia and continued to win without him. The club has thrived despite multiple injuries to key players, something that Sabathia continues to marvel at.

“It’s been amazing, it’s been fun to be a part of,” he said. “Just the culture of this team, going out and grinding every day. So many injuries, just seeing these young guys step up, next man up. It’s been cool to be a part of this.”

Didi back Friday?

For the first time, Aaron Boone got specific regarding when Didi Gregorius, rehabbing with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, could be in line to rejoin the Yankees. He said “there’s a real chance” the shortstop will be back when the Yankees start a three-game series Friday in Cleveland.

“Good,” Boone said of the reports he’s gotten so far from Scranton, where Gregorius reported earlier in the week. “Made a couple of good plays [Friday night]. He’s doing great. Now it’s just continuing to get in that everyday mode.”

Keuchel chatter

The Yankees sent one of their top scouts to Newport Beach, California, last Sunday to watch lefthander Dallas Keuchel throw a simulated game. Though some have pushed the notion that they're the favorite to land Keuchel, it still isn’t clear just how interested they are.

Some team insiders continue to say the Yankees, who figure to be active before the trade deadline in an attempt to bolster their rotation, aren’t inclined to overpay — in either dollars or years — for the former American League Cy Young Award winner, whose overall health and potential effectiveness remain a source of speculation among industry talent evaluators.

“I’ve heard those rumors too,” Boone said of the Keuchel-to-the-Yankees talk. “I know we’re always having conversations about who’s available and improving our club in different ways. Until we’re down the road with anything like that, that’s not really my area. I’m to some degree kept up to speed on these kinds of things, but until it becomes a reality or something, I don’t get that involved in it.”

Call to arms

The Yankees have three relievers on pace to hit the 70-appearance plateau: Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle. Each entered Saturday night having appeared in 26 games. A fourth, Aroldis Chapman, has appeared in 24.

Boone, however, said he isn’t concerned about any of them getting run into the ground.

“We just got to the [one-third] mark of the season, so you’re kind of looking at what kind of pace are these guys on,” Boone said. “And part of the reason maybe we’re a tick above pace on a couple of the guys is because we’ve been in a winning mode. And you know over the course of the season, even when you’re winning some games or losing some games, a guy’s going to go a week where he pitches once and you kind of reset it from that point. I don’t feel like with any of them that we’re in an uncomfortable spot from a usage standpoint.”

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