Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees are preparing for a news conference on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field to announce that CC Sabathia will retire after the season, as SNY was first to report.
Sabathia's family is expected to attend, and the pitcher will have the chance to recap his career, while looking ahead to one more run at a championship. That is sure to be a well-deserved, feel-good day for the longtime Yankee and one-time ace. But the team enters Spring Training with reminders that relying on late-career Sabathia as part of the starting rotation comes with heavy risk.
At his first news conference of the season on Wednesday, manager Aaron Boone said the Yanks plan to "slow play" the 38-year-old Sabathia's progress in Spring Training, following an offseason angioplasty.
There remains a decent chance that Sabathia will be ready to pitch at the beginning of the season after serving a five-game suspension for throwing at a batter in September, but any setbacks in camp would delay his debut deeper into April. It's far from a sure thing that he'll be ready when the team heads north.
As has been the case for several years, Sabathia's knees have given him more trouble, which is why the Yankees also essentially expect to lose him to the disabled list once or twice during the season. But despite that, the club has so far declined to add one of the many free agent starters still available, which would have pushed Sabathia into more of a sixth starter role.
And according to sources, the Yanks are highly unlikely to do so - sorry, fans hoping for a Gio Gonzalez-type addition - and are likely done adding players this offseason, period.
That leaves Boone to tout the organizational rotation depth, as he did on Wednesday.
"We have people in the organization capable of filling in," Boone said.
The manager cited Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa and up-and-comer Michael King as his options if Sabathia goes down. King has an elbow issue and is shut down, but the team hopes that his injury is not serious.
Overall, the Yankee rotation is solid. If James Paxton adapts well to New York, he should slot in ahead of Luis Severino as the team's ace and Game 1 playoff starter. It was important to re-sign J.A. Happ, who remains solid as ever as he enters his late '30s. Masahiro Tanaka carries the usual caveats about his torn elbow ligament, even though he said Tuesday he no longer worries or even thinks about that issue.
GM Brian Cashman built a deep bullpen, too, capable on most nights of carrying the team from the fourth or fifth inning. But for even a strong pen to sustain itself through an entire season, a team's rotation has to be relatively healthy.
"Staying healthy in our starting rotation, relatively healthy, is obviously a key," Boone said.
Indeed it is. For all the strengths the Yankees have, they are an injury away from being in the same position they were last summer, forced to trade away prospects for rotation help at the trade deadline.