BALTIMORE — CC Sabathia’s balky and bothersome right knee could soon be sending him to the New York Yankees‘ still-full injured list, the veteran left-hander and his manager said following his latest start Wednesday night.
“We have so many injuries, and to kind of pile this on there kind of sucks right now, but this is just something that I need to take care of,” the 38-year-old Sabathia said after the Yankees’ 7-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles. “Probably take some time [off] just to get the medicine in there and let it kind of work its magic.”
Sabathia, who earned his 249th career win Wednesday by striking out seven in a five-inning outing, said he won’t be traveling with the Yankees to Kansas City on Thursday night. The Yankees have a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals that follows Thursday’s midday series finale in Baltimore.
Instead of joining his teammates, Sabathia will be heading back to New York. He’s expecting to get a cortisone shot that day, which will force him to be shut down a few days. Asked if Sabathia could miss his next start, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said: “It’s possible.” Could this be an IL stint for Sabathia? “It could be,” Boone added.
Knee flare-ups like the ones Sabathia said he has been fighting through his past couple of starts have occurred almost yearly for him since 2014. Across much of that time, he has been dealing with inflammation and arthritis in the knee, forcing him to take his share of midseason breaks.
Sabathia has been placed on the IL four times the past six seasons due to right-knee inflammation. In previous years, those stints have included treatments of cortisone, draining of excess fluid in the knee and the administering of a separate fluid that’s designed to help lubricate his knee. Pitching with braces around his knee has helped stabilize it, too.
The 19-year veteran also has undergone offseason surgeries to the knee, including one this past winter. That operation preceded an unexpected heart procedure in December. Because of both surgeries, Sabathia was placed on the IL during spring training, and remained there the first two weeks of the season.
Since making his season debut April 13, Sabathia is 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA. He has allowed 35 hits while striking out 34.
“[The knee] always hurts pretty bad when it’s like this,” Sabathia said. “I would say [the pain] is in the middle. But no, I’m not concerned. I’ve dealt with this before, the medicine’s worked, the brace has worked and I feel pretty good.”
The hardest part of pitching with the knee injury is the way it impacts the conclusion of his delivery, Sabathia said.
“It was just hard to land. It’s like a shooting pain goes through every time when I land, so it makes it hard to kind of finish my pitches,” Sabathia said.
Although he felt the pain all throughout this latest start, it didn’t appear to trouble him until the fifth inning, when he gave up his share of hard batted balls.
Sabathia cruised through the first four innings, registering all of his strikeouts within them. He also had allowed only one hit before everything unraveled with two homers and two doubles in the fifth. Of the seven batted balls he allowed in the inning, four were hit with exit velocities of 102 mph or faster. Normally a master of weak contact, those heightened velocities were notable.
“That last inning was a struggle for him,” Boone said. “But he battled.”
If Sabathia goes back on the IL, he will join the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird, Troy Tulowitzki and Didi Gregorius on it. In all, 12 players are currently on the IL, with as many as 17, including Sabathia, having already spent time sidelined this season.