NEW YORK -- The clock for CC Sabathia to return to the Yankees starts ticking tomorrow when he takes the mound for the Class A Tampa Yankees in his first official rehab start. Sabathia has been on the disabled list since May 11 with right knee inflammation, and threw a 35 pitch simulated game Tuesday in Tampa. But once he starts pitching in actual minor leagues games, the Yankees have 30 days to decide whether to re-activate him or leave him on the DL.
Speaking before tonight's opener of the three-game weekend series against the Red Sox, Joe Girardi said he believed Sabathia would need a minimum of three rehab starts to build himself up sufficiently to return to the Yankee rotation.
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"Of course you start to think that you’re getting to where he’s pretty close to getting back," Girardi said. "This next start is 40-45 pitches, the start after that is 60, and the one after that is 75 and you try to build him up. The important thing to me is that he’s able to bounce back, and that the knee is not an issue and it doesn’t get in the way and if it doesn’t then we can have him back fairly quickly."
Sabathia, of course, had not pitched well before going on the DL -- he was 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA and had allowed 10 home runs in 46 innings at the time he was injured -- but Girardi said he thinks Sabathia will be effective when he gets back.
"Well, I know [the knee] was bothering him the last three starts, I think it was, the last three or four starts," Girardi said. "And I’m hoping this little break will help him to physically be better and stronger, because for it to get to that point my thought is maybe there was a little weakness in there before. But our hope is, yes, that he will be better, that he will be strong and that he will help anchor this rotation."
Not just Nuno: Girardi has been asked, repeatedly, why he didn't skip Vidal Nuno tonight, considering his difficulties pitching at Yankee Stadium, where he has never won a game (0-4 in his career, 0-3 with a 7.00 ERA and 13 HRs allowed in 39 1/3 innings this year), in favor of Masahiro Tanaka, who because of yesterday's off-day is on full rest. So of course, some idiot -- OK, it was me -- decided to ask it again.
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Here is Girardi's response: “I’m going to say this the last time today. The last time, because I’ve answered this question 10 times. I’m not irritated, but I don’t understand. Tanaka is a guy, the most he’s thrown is 226 innings. He’s on pace to throw 226 innings. He’s been a guy that’s used to pitching every seven days. I’ve been asked over the last, I don’t know, eight months, a hundred times, do you think Kuroda got tired? Hmm. Do you think Kuroda got tired? Huh. I have a guy in Chase Whitley that’s made 20 starts in his career. Most he’s ever thrown in a year is 95 innings. David Phelps is not a guy that’s been a starter every year, so it’s about five guys. It’s not about Tanaka. If I move Tanaka up today, he makes six starts in 30 days, every five days. What starter does that? We don’t play more than 20 days in a row. No starters do that because it’s physically too tough, so when you have a chance to give a guy an extra day, you do. He’s going to make four starts. Three on everyday rest. So are some of the other guys. I have to be careful. It’s a long season. And if I start him today or tomorrow, he still makes the same number of starts before the All-Star break. So I’m going to say last, this is about five guys, it’s not about one guy. Question answered.”
In other words, the manager is worried about all his starters, not just Nuno.
Workman-like performance: Tonight's Red Sox starter, Brandon Workman, is 2-1 lifetime against the Yankees with a 5.40 ERA, all in relief appearances and all last season. This will be his first career start against the Yankees.