Yankees pick CC Sabathia as fifth starter over Ivan Nova

MIAMI -- The last major personnel decision on the New York Yankees' 2016 roster was decided Friday, when manager Joe Girardi named CC Sabathia his No. 5 starter.

The move was not a surprise, considering Sabathia's stature as a former ace, an AL Cy Young Award winner and an 11-time Opening Day starter. It would have been more surprising if he had not won the job. But what was unusual was general manager Brian Cashman's saying Sabathia had the job on a provisional basis.

"It was not an easy decision, to be honest,'' Cashman said. "But ultimately, we decided that CC's got it for now.''

Sabathia prevailed after a training camp competition with Ivan Nova, who now will work out of the bullpen, something he has done just a handful of times in his major league career.

Even so, Cashman stressed that as the final addition to the Yankees' rotation, the 35-year-old Sabathia was on the bubble and could be knocked off at any time.

"I can't say how long a leash he's on, but I think any fifth starter in the game is on a shorter leash,'' Cashman said. "Hopefully, that was the right call, and hopefully he'll do well and pitch well for us.''

The decision to give the job to Sabathia came after an hour-long meeting Thursday attended by, according to Cashman, 16 members of the Yankees baseball operations staff. The final decision, he said, was made by Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

"A lot of it came down to CC's September last year,'' Girardi said in reference to Sabathia's final four starts of 2016, when he went 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA. Overall, Sabathia was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA.

Girardi also hinted that Sabathia's position could be temporary.

"The decision that sometimes you make in April is not necessarily what happens in May,'' he said.

Cashman emphasized that Sabathia's salary -- he will be paid $25 million this season and another $25 million in 2017 for a vesting option that is only nullified if Sabathia ends the season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury -- was not a factor.

"The money he makes has nothing to do with it now,'' Cashman said. "He made that money based on, obviously, performance in years gone by. What's done is done. What he's making is what he's making. What his role is going to be and how much he contributes was to be determined, and he's going to be a starter for now, and we hope he keeps it. We hope he keeps it the whole year, but we'll see how it goes.''

Sabathia, who said earlier in the week that he "assumed'' the job was his all along, took the official announcement in stride.

"I felt like I got done what I wanted to accomplish this spring,'' said Sabathia, who went 1-3 with a 5.51 ERA in spring training.

He acknowledged that he had not had to wait this long to know his position on a big league roster since he was a rookie with the Cleveland Indians in 2001.

"There's a first time for everything,'' he said.

Nova turned in the best spring performance by a Yankees starter on Wednesday, when he pitched six innings of two-hit, shutout ball against the Atlanta Braves.

"I still consider myself as a starting pitcher, but I told you guys from the beginning it was going to be a tough competition," he said Friday. "You're talking CC Sabathia. Even though I think I did my part to stay in the rotation, I knew, and I was preparing for that moment too.''

Sabathia said he would return to Tampa, Florida, to pitch in an intrasquad game Sunday before joining the Yankees on Monday for their home opener. His first start will come April 9 against the Tigers in Detroit.