Sabathia, the 6-foot-7 left-hander, made his fifth consecutive opening-day start for the Yankees and was tagged with the loss in New York's 8-2 drubbing at the hands of the BoSox.
Sabathia is only 32 years old, but he's certainly not a young 32. He made his major-league debut at age 20 for the Cleveland Indians in 2001 and from his rookie season through the end of the 2012 campaign, only Mark Buehrle has thrown more innings (2,627 2/3) than Sabathia's 2,564 1/3. Sabathia's 383 starts also rank second in that span to Buehrle, who has started 393 games. No pitcher in baseball has more strikeouts (2,214) since the 2001 season than CC; Javier Vazquez is the only other pitcher with more than 2,000 over that period (Statistics from baseball-reference.com).
So when Sabathia's fastball was approaching the plate mostly in the 88 to 90 mph range in the opener, topping out twice at 92, it was a bit of a concern.
After all, Sabathia has a lot of mileage on his arm and he's coming off surgery last fall to clean bone chips out of his left elbow. And, to put it kindly, conditioning does not appear to be one of the big lefty's strong suits.
But this is not Sabathia's first rodeo, either. In the 2012 opener at Tampa Bay, Sabathia was lit up by the Rays when his fastball averaged just 92 mph, topping out at 94. Poor velocity on opening day is not a new experience for Sabathia.
"I am sure my velocity will keep coming back the more I throw," Sabathia told the New York Post on Monday. "But health-wise, I am fine."
Sabathia certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one. Monday's loss was Sabathia's 10th opening-day start in his career. He worked five openers with the Cleveland Indians (2003-04, 2006-08) and the last five with the Yankees. His record in those games is an unsightly 1-2 with an ERA of 5.80 and a WHIP of 1.64 in 54 1/3 innings.
His lone opening-day win came with Cleveland in 2007, when he worked six innings and allowed three runs (all earned) and eight hits in a 12-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
His longest outing in an opener is seven innings, in both 2003 and 2004 for the Indians (both no-decisions).
Manager Joe Girardi was another who was unconcerned by the lack of pop on Sabathia's fastball.
"We're pretty used to seeing him not have the same velocity in April that he'll have in June or July," Girardi told the New York Daily News.
The bottom line is that Sabathia's lack of velocity was a bit alarming, to be sure. But given his long track record of success, let's wait another start of two before setting off any panic alarms.
Phil Watson is a freelance journalist and commentator based in upper Michigan who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
- Sports & Recreation
- New York Yankees
- CC Sabathia
- Cleveland Indians