CC Sabathia didn't seem to miss a beat in his return from the disabled list, and New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes the break will help his endurance down the stretch.
Before looking too far down the road, though, Girardi would first like to see Sabathia continue his recent dominance over Oakland on Sunday and help the AL East leaders avoid being swept in a four-game series by the surging Athletics for the first time in 40 years.
Sidelined for 22 days because of a left groin strain, Sabathia (10-3, 3.27 ERA) returned to the Yankees (57-37) on Tuesday against Toronto and gave up four hits in six scoreless innings of a 6-1 win. He threw 66 of 87 pitches for strikes.
"I always feel like I can go longer, but that's Joe's job and it worked out," Sabathia told the Yankees' official website. "Hopefully I can keep this going, build off this and keep having good starts."
The time on the DL has left Sabathia, who turned 32 years old Saturday, with 113 innings pitched - 48 2-3 innings fewer than he had on this date one year ago.
"I don't think that's a bad thing," Girardi said. "That's how I kind of looked at it. I looked up, and seeing he's not already at 130, 140 innings will really help him in the long run."
The Yankees are 12-4 when Sabathia takes the ball, and with the team in danger of being swept in a four-game series by the A's for the first time since July 14-16, 1972, Girardi hopes his ace can come through again when he faces the club he grew up rooting for.
Sabathia is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last four starts against the A's (50-44). In Oakland on May 26, he gave up two runs and seven hits in seven innings of a 9-2 victory.
He'll be facing a red-hot A's team that is a major league-best 13-2 this month, and has pulled into a tie with Baltimore and Chicago for the AL's second wild card.
"As far as things in this clubhouse, we're having a blast," said Brandon Inge, who hit the go-ahead homer in the eighth inning in Saturday's 2-1 win. "I think that's leading to a lot of wins.''
Yoenis Cespedes also homered to continue his tear at the plate. He is batting .576 with four home runs and 10 RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak.
Even if Sabathia is able to shut down Oakland's offense, the Yankees still need to get their offense in gear. New York, which had won 13 of 14 in Oakland prior to this series, has combined for six runs, 22 hits and one walk in the first three games.
The offense, however, seemingly should have better luck against former Yankee Bartolo Colon (6-8, 3.88), who has a 10.80 ERA in his last four starts against New York.
Colon was sharp in his first two starts coming off the DL with a strained oblique muscle, posting a 1.23 ERA, but regressed Tuesday against Texas, yielding four runs and eight hits in seven innings of a 6-1 loss.
The veteran right-hander, who went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 29 games for the Yankees last season, opposed Sabathia back in May, and was tagged for six runs and nine hits in six innings to get the loss. Robinson Cano, whose 23-game hitting streak ended Saturday, hit a solo homer in the second inning of that game, and is 5 for 8 lifetime against Colon.