A healthy Sabathia is what the Yankees hope for next year

By Rich Mancuso

One thing about Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia is certain. He always has the optimism, and Saturday before the Yankees faced the Reds in the Bronx, the 34-year old one-time ace of their pitching staff was no different. Except Sabathia will not throw another pitch this year and the Yankees hope he will be ready for spring training in 2015.

There was every reason to be optimistic. The left-hander will have arthroscopic surgery on his ailing right knee. Sabathia is optimistic, because the procedure is not microfracture surgery which could be career ending. Instead, the one-time ace of an injured and decimated pitching staff should recover in time for spring training.

“It is something I'm probably going to have to deal with the rest of my life and eventually have a big surgery," Sabathia said. "The goal is to keep playing and this is the easiest way to do it." The plan is for Sabathia to have surgery Wednesday and then a recovery time of six to eight weeks.

The knee will be cleaned out, a medical procedure that should make Sabathia feel better, but he is not out of the woods. Surgery may have to be done if the procedure is not effective, and if that is the case, it could be career ending.

But, through it all, and since Sabathia put his name on a multi-year contract with the Yankees in 2008, there has always been optimism and confidence.  The Yankees had a similar rash of injuries last year and Sabathia was confident.  He was not the same pitcher when it came to the velocity of a fastball that was always dominant.

Sabathia, though, remained confident through all the adversity. At times, he seemed to be a co-captain with Derek Jeter.

“I'm fine with the arthroscopic surgery,” stated Sabathia. The microfracture surgery would keep him out for 18 months, so if there are no further complications the Yankees will have a healthy ace back in the rotation next April.

"If that is the case,” he said, “that is the best-case scenario at my age and you look at all of the innings that I pitched. I'm fine with that.”

He has pitched a lot of innings, and the work load may have tool a toll on the knee. He has averaged 18-wins a season in five years. With 208 wins, and with a contract that goes to 2017, Sabathia could reach the 300- win plateau as a Yankee and that is something he would like to achieve.

However, there is that skepticism, especially if the arthroscopic procedure can’t handle a heavy amount of work off the mound. Sabathia may still not have the velocity after the procedure, and that can also be a concern, but the procedure is common with NBA players and they are able to come back at full strength.

There is no telling where this will go. The Yankees also remain optimistic because Sabathia has been a major part of their championship plans since his arrival in the Bronx. But, this goes in the record book as his worse season, 3-wins and a 5.28 ERA. Since his debut in 2001, and prior to this season, Sabathia, a 2007 Cy Young Award winner, has a career winning percentage of .641 and 2,381 strikeouts.

“Just knowing that I don’t have to have the microfracture and I can return next year is a good feeling,” he said. General Manager Brian Cashman has said, with four-fifths of the Yankees starting rotation injured, that pitching reinforcements are possible before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

Regardless, there is optimism because Sabathia always brings that to the table and the Yankees need him to be healthy next year.

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