Milwaukee Brewers’ management won’t place the weight of the club’s playoff hopes solely on the left arm of CC Sabathia. It does, however, expect the new acquisition to have a major impact as the team tries to reach the postseason for the first time in 26 years.
The reigning AL CY Young Award winner makes his Brewers’ debut as they continue their four-game set with the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
A day after Milwaukee (49-40) finalized a deal with Cleveland for Sabathia in exchange for four prospects, including prized outfielder Matt LaPorta, the 6-foot-7, 290-pounder tries to help the Brewers bounce back from a 4-3 loss to Colorado on Monday.
Milwaukee - one-half game out of the wild-card lead and four back of NL Central-leading Chicago - has not been to the playoffs since winning the AL pennant in 1982, but made a serious statement regarding its immediate postseason intentions by adding Sabathia.
“I’d say we’re going for it,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said of his club that lost for the second time in seven games. “That’s the way I look at it.”
After debuting in 2001, Sabathia went 106-71 with a 3.83 ERA during his entire major-league tenure with the Indians. He went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA in 2007, but got off to a slow start this season and left Cleveland 6-8 with a 3.83 ERA. He was, however, 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 41 strikeouts over his last five starts.
A subject of trade rumors for weeks, Sabathia became the first reigning Cy Young winner to be traded since Toronto sent Roger Clemens to the New York Yankees after he won the award in 1998. Although they are adding Sabathia to a rotation that already includes All-Star Ben Sheets, the Brewers don’t want to place too heavy a burden on their newest acquisition.
“We don’t want to put pressure on CC to think he is the guy that’s going to take us to the next level, because the team still has to play well,” Melvin told the Brewers’ official Web site. “It takes 25 players and beyond.”
In his most recent start, Sabathia allowed four earned runs and seven hits in eight innings of a 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. While Sabathia is 12-6 with a 3.74 ERA in 30 career starts versus NL opponents, he is 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA in four outings against Colorado.
Sabathia and Sheets are both expected to command top-dollar deals as free agents after the season, but the newest Brewer isn’t looking past his next appearance.
“I’ll focus on that when it comes,” Sabathia said. “Right now, I’m worried about pitching (Tuesday).”
He’ll deal with a Colorado (38-52) club that’s won six of seven. All-Star Matt Holliday went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs on Monday for the Rockies, who have won three of four from the Brewers in 2008.
Holliday has hit safely in 11 straight games, batting .442 (19-for-43) with four home runs - over four contests - and 13 RBIs during that span.
“I think he’s in as good a place as we’ve seen him in a long time,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.
Milwaukee’s J.J. Hardy has been even hotter, hitting .442 (34-for-77) with eight homers and 20 RBIs over 19 contests.
Colorado’s Mark Redman (2-3, 7.05) will try to cool off Hardy as he makes his second start Tuesday since being recalled from the minors. He allowed two runs and six hits in six innings of a 6-5, 11-inning win over Florida on Thursday.
The left-hander, who’s replacing Jeff Francis in the rotation, has fared well against Milwaukee, going 6-2 with a 2.49 ERA in nine starts. He hasn’t faced the Brewers since 2006.