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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

CC Sabathia on strikeout milestone, numbers that matter to him

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia delivers

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning in an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

With his second-inning strikeout of Minnesota’s Chris Gimenez on Tuesday, CC Sabathia passed Mickey Lolich for third place on the all-time strikeout list for lefthanded pitchers.

It was Sabathia’s 2,832nd strikeout. He finished with five in the Yankees’ 5-2 victory, giving him 2,836 in his 17-year career.

Sabathia is 18th on the all-time list. Among lefthanders, he is behind only Hall of Famers Randy Johnson (4,875) and Steve Carlton (4,136).

“That’s pretty cool,” Sabathia said. “Especially with the two guys in front of me I’m never going to catch. It’s cool to have your name up there with those guys.”

Sabathia, as is his nature, downplayed the milestone. He said he wasn’t even aware of it when it happened.

“I’m just not a numbers guy,” he said.

We were standing in the media gaggle surrounding Sabathia when he said that. Because we write about baseball numbers for Newsday, it felt like a challenge made.

The next day, the challenge was accepted.

We walked up to Sabathia on Wednesday and asked if we could find some numbers he would be aware of and proud of. He dismissed the usual stuff — his 235 wins, his 507 career starts, his 38 complete games, his 12 shutouts, his 61.2 career WAR — saying he will wait until his career is over to appreciate his body of work.

“The only thing I’m worried about is getting to the next start,” said Sabathia, 37, who is 12-5 with a 3.81 ERA in 25 starts this season while battling a troublesome knee. “It’s hard to kind of think of my numbers right now when I’m in the middle of it. Maybe when I’m done I can look back. I think that’ll be fun for me, to be able to look back and say, ‘Hey, this year I did this.’ I’m kind of saving it for that.”

So we were forced to dig deeper.

Sabathia even helped, volunteering a few of his favorite numbers. Here are some of the numbers that make his eyes widen and his face light up, and his comments:

36,000 (the number of backpacks his PitCCh In Foundation has donated in the Bronx and his native California): “We just gave away our 36,000th backpack. We’ve been doing that for eight years. It just started with my mom’s idea to give away backpacks to kids in elementary schools.”

106 (The number of wins he had with both the Indians and the Yankees going into 2017): “I didn’t know that. That’s interesting because I thought I would like forever be an Indian, but my time here has passed that. That’s cool.”

52 (Sabathia’s uniform number for his entire career): “That was just the number they gave me in my first big-league camp. I was just so excited to have, like, a low number, like a decent number, that I just kind of kept it. Since then it’s been my number. By the time I came here, [pitching coach] Dave Eiland was wearing it. So I had to get it from him.”

5, 10, 15, 20 “I’ve got some good numbers for you: my kids’ birthdays. Aug. 5, Oct. 10, Sept. 15 and Sept. 20.”

9 “My favorite number as a kid. I don’t know why. That was my first uniform number. I wore it in high school.”

0 (regular-season relief appearances — he did pitch once in relief for Yankees in the 2011 ALDS against Detroit): “I’ve got to give [former Indians general manager] John Hart credit for that. He saw me as a starter. No exceptions, no anything other. I made the Olympic team in 2000 and they sent me back because he wanted me to start and they wanted me to pitch out of the bullpen.”

1 (number of World Series rings, with the Yankees in 2009): “Just one so far.”

TBA (number of years he will pitch after this one): “I don’t know. I guess it’s kind of not up to me. We’ll just see how it goes, you know?”

SOUTHPAW PARK

Most career strikeouts by a lefty:

4,875 Randy Johnson

4,136 Steve Carlton

2,836 CC Sabathia

2,832 Mickey Lolich

2,773 Frank Tanana

2,610 Chuck Finley

2,607 Tom Glavine

2,583 Warren Spahn

2,556 Jerry Koosman

2,464 Mark Langston

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