CC Sabathia, ultimate warrior and stopper extraordinaire for the Yankees last season, makes his spring training debut against the Phillies in Clearwater on Thursday afternoon.
The Yankees are heading into the 2018 season with the same questions as for the ’17 season, can Sabathia repeat his success of the year before and can he remain healthy?
Sabathia posted a 3.69 ERA, 7.3 K/9, and 1.271 WHIP over 148.2 innings in 2017, missing time twice in the season, once for a hamstring injury that sidelined him for about two weeks in mid-June. Later when the chronic knee injury flared up in August, Sabathia was on the disabled list for ten days.
Despite injuries, Sabathia remained a stable and reliable winning pitcher for the Yankees going 14-5 on the season.
The reason the Yanks brought Sabathia back over the offseason is that he is the emotional leader of this team and an absolute fighter on the mound.
Tyler Norton of Pinstripe Alley describes Sabathia’s role with the Yankees:
"Throughout his career, Sabathia earned a reputation as a stopper. He became the pitcher a team would turn to in order to stop a losing streak. While always a battler on the mound, he seemed to relish the big moments. His intensity and demeanor suited him for these situations."
In 2017, Sabathia owned 1.71 ERA, and the Yankees went 9-0 when he started a game following a Yankees loss — by far the best stats in both categories among pitchers who made at least seven starts following a team loss.
Sabathia is not intimidated by high leverage situations; in fact, he welcomes them.
There’s a lot of desire and determination left as Sabathia told the New York Daily News.
"We want that big-dog presence back where we can go out and try to beat everybody every night."
For the young players on the team, this is the message the Yankees want them to hear — bring your biggest, baddest game and battle for the win every day.
Sabathia is back, and so, he has declared, is the Evil Empire — and it’ll be up to him to lead the way starting on Thursday.