TAMPA, Fla. (WFAN/AP) — CC Sabathia’s weight is down, and the Yankees are hoping a few lost pounds might turn into a few more victories.
The five-time All-Star said Sunday he’s shed 10 to 15 pounds and reported to spring training weighing about 290 – the same as a year ago when he pitched brilliantly early in the season but not nearly as effective down the stretch, when he appeared to be much heavier.
After winning 13 of his first 17 decisions, Sabathia finished 19-8 overall with a 3.00 ERA. The Yankees rewarded him with a contract extension that added $30 million and one season to an existing contract that now will pay him $122 million over the next five years.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman later arranged a meeting with Sabathia to discuss the importance of the 31-year-old lefty watching his weight as he gets older.
“When I was dealing with his contract, the weight stuff didn’t come up. We wanted CC. We needed CC. We love CC,” said Cashman, who bolstered the Yankees starting rotation this winter by trading for young right-hander Michael Pineda and signing former Los Angeles Dodgers righty Hiroki Kuroda to a $10 million, one-year free agent contract.
“We obviously thought it was important enough to have the conversation because obviously in the second half he got bigger,” Cashman added. “I know he was having some patella tendon problems with the knee. You could argue, is that from the excess weight? Is it just the season? Is it because he had that knee surgery? No one has those answers. The best you can do is try to eliminate possibilities.”
The GM said Sabathia is one of the hardest workers on the team and that the conversation about the pitcher’s weight was not initiated because of any concerns about how he takes care of himself.
“CC’s never let us down. He’s the type of person that’s fully committed,” Cashman said. “So the only hard part really is to have these conversations. The easy part is watching him follow through.”
The general manager stressed the discussion was more about trying to maintain what’s helped Sabathia perform at a high level in the past than trying to force Sabathia to lose weight.
“He’s obviously a big man. He’s pitched with weight his whole career,” Cashman said, adding he doesn’t believe in placing weight clauses in contracts because they can be counterproductive.
Standing in his front of his locker at the Yankees spring training complex, where pitchers and catchers hold their first workout on Monday, Sabathia acknowledged he didn’t pitch well late in the season but that his weight wasn’t a factor.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “I wish I could pitch lights out every single time.”
Pineda and Kuroda are joining a rotation that includes Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia, in addition to Sabathia, who is excited about what – at least for now – appears to be a surplus of starting pitchers.
Pineda, who turned 23 last month, was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 28 starts with the Seattle Mariners last year. Kuroda was 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA in 32 starts for the Dodgers.
“It’s a good problem to have. Any time you can add guys like Michael and Kuroda it definitely helps. It should be a good battle,” Sabathia said. “It’s a win-win situation for us either way.”
Cashman, who is still in the market to sign a left-handed designated hitter, said a team can never have enough starting pitching.
“I don’t necessarily look at it as a competition for the fifth spot. I’ve been around long enough to realize that what appears to be a surplus … can turn into a deficit rather quickly based on health and freak stuff,” the general manager said.
“I’m not trying to jinx us by talking about it. But I’ve lived through it enough to know. Exhibit A is the Boston Red Sox last year. We go into spring training last year with not enough. They go into spring training armed and dangerous with more than enough. But with the spring training schedule, plus 162 regular season games, that can radically change things over time.”
Cashman isn’t speculating about how the rotation might look on opening day.
One thing he’s not counting on is Pineda emerging from this camp as the No. 2 or 3 starter behind Sabathia.
“We don’t have those illusions. … Obviously he’s got a lot of potential, but we can’t forget he’s still young,” Cashman said, adding that it wouldn’t be fair to place such high expectations on Pineda.
“We have some veterans clearly who have been there and done that, that have a history and track record. We have some young guys that are certainly high end and capable. And then we’ve got some kids who are knocking on the door that still in theory need more development time.”
Notes: Manager Joe Girardi’s flight to from Newark, N.J., to Tampa was delayed Sunday, and the Yankees pushed his annual pre-camp news conference back to Monday. … Kuroda thinks being reunited with catcher Russell Martin, a former teammate in Los Angeles, will help his transition to the Yankees. “I played with him for three years. He knows me. Not just my pitches, he knows my personality, so it’s going to be a real big help,” Kuroda said through a translator. … Reliever Mariano Riviera did not report with the rest of the pitchers, however Cashman was not concerned. “He knows what he needs to do,” to get ready for the season, the GM said. “It’s not a problem.”
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