Sabathia will have surgery Wednesday, and general manager Brian Cashman said he thinks ''in theory'' the big left-hander will be ready for spring training in February. But there is no guarantee Sabathia will be able to pitch effectively next season.
''Given obviously the number of things that have gone on, we'll have to be careful with him,'' Cashman said Friday. ''Hopefully next year will be a different story.''
The team all but ruled out Sabathia returning in 2014 after he had a setback early this month while he was on a minor league rehab assignment. He was hit hard July 2 in an outing for Double-A Trenton and woke up the next morning with swelling in the knee joint.
One positive is that Sabathia, who turns 34 on Monday, will not have microfracture surgery Wednesday, which would require a longer recovery. Cashman said it will be an ''arthroscopic debridement'' - basically, a cleanup procedure.
The six-time All-Star and 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner has been out with a degenerative cartilage problem in his right knee since mid-May, when his ERA reached a career-high 5.28.
''The rehab side of it which he went through, if you had three different options, that was the least,'' Cashman said. ''Now we're on the middle side of this thing, which is a cleanup of the knee, and hopefully that's good enough.''
The operation will be performed by Los Angeles Dodgers head physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Sabathia also had surgery on the knee in October 2010 to repair a small meniscus cartilage tear.
After signing a $161 million, seven-year deal with the Yankees as a free agent before the 2009 season, Sabathia had his contract extended in 2011 by one year and $30 million. Making $23 million this season, Sabathia is scheduled to earn $23 million in 2015 and $25 million in 2016. The Yankees have a $25 million option on his deal for 2017 with a $5 million buyout.
In other news, designated hitter Carlos Beltran was activated Friday from the seven-day concussion list. He batted sixth in the opener of a three-game interleague series against Cincinnati and hit an RBI single in the third inning.
Rookie ace Masahiro Tanaka, sidelined with a partially torn ligament in his right elbow, won't begin a throwing program until he's pain-free. The Yankees hope he can avoid Tommy John surgery and return in September.
Tanaka had a platelet-rich plasma injection.
''There's treatment, protocols, and when he's symptom-free he'll start a throwing program, which obviously leads to bullpens, batting practices and hopefully rehab games. All of that has to happen without issue,'' Cashman said. ''I know he's feeling better, but he doesn't feel symptom-free.''
Michael Pineda (right shoulder muscle injury) is throwing ''very well'' in Florida and the Yankees hope he can come back in August, Cashman said.
The injuries to Sabathia, Tanaka, Pineda and Ivan Nova (season-ending Tommy John surgery) have left the third-place Yankees without four-fifths of their opening-day rotation. Hiroki Kuroda is the only one left, teaming with David Phelps, newcomer Brandon McCarthy and rookies Chase Whitley and Shane Greene to fill out a makeshift unit.
Beltran was hit in the face with a ball that caromed off the batting cage July 9 in Cleveland and broke his nose. He said he was never told by a doctor that he had a concussion, but the Yankees were concerned and wanted to make sure he was OK.
The club opened a roster spot for Beltran just before the All-Star break when right-hander Bryan Mitchell was optioned to Double-A Trenton after Sunday night's loss in Baltimore.
The Yankees also announced they will honor captain Derek Jeter during a pregame ceremony Sept. 7. Jeter is retiring after the season.