NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — CC Sabathia sounds like a new man.
The veteran left-hander is poised to restart his career following a stint in alcohol rehab last fall.
Speaking to the Daily News on Thursday night, Sabathia discussed how family, the Yankees and the prospect of regaining some of his past form on the mound have motivated him heading into spring training, which begins unofficially next week.
“I’m definitely in a good place,” Sabathia said. “You’ve never got this thing beat; it’s always there and I’m always going to be a recovering alcoholic, but I’m in a good place. I’m excited about what’s coming ahead, not only in the season, but personally. I’m ready to go.”
Finally realizing he has a problem with alcohol, Sabathia left the Yankees just before their AL wild-card game loss to Houston last October. He said his time away has prepared him for the challenges ahead, both in his battle against the bottle and the realities that he will likely never be the power pitcher he was before.
“I appreciate it more. This is my 16th year in the big leagues, and you can’t take it for granted. This whole experience has put a new lease on my career and the way I’m viewing it,” Sabathia said.
“Everybody was worried about me,” he added. “To see me go through what I went through and come out on the other side a better person, I think everybody is excited.
Owner of 214 career wins, the former Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star said he credits the Yankees with having faith in him to see his rehab through and then rededicate himself to getting back out there on the mound.
“To have all the support from them and the organization, it has been fantastic,” Sabathia said. “When I talked to you last, I hadn’t seen everybody yet. I hadn’t been to the field. Getting all that support and love has been a lot of fun.”
Sabathia, who has dealt with numerous injuries over the last few years, figures to be a back-of-the-rotation guy. While he may not have the blazing fastball that once overwhelmed hitters, he has made adjustments and become more of a thinking man’s pitcher — a crafty lefty, if you will. Prior to leaving the Yankees last season, Sabathia allowed more than two earned runs just twice over his final nine starts, lowering his ERA from an unsightly 5.34 to a more manageable 4.73.
“I’ve been working really hard the past three months, and I’m ready to go,” Sabathia said. “I’ve been able to do everything I wanted to do as far as my knee and upper body. I’m excited coming into the season.”
And he says he doesn’t feel any pressure to be the innings-eating horse he’s been asked to be in the past.
“Not with this bullpen,” he said, referring to a Yankees relief corps that now boasts Aroldis Chapman, along with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, among others. “I’ll be 36 in July; I’m the old guy now. I’d rather those guys carry me instead of me carrying them for a change.”
The Yankees begin official spring training workouts on Feb. 25.