CC Sabathia will never be fully healthy again, but the Yankees’ starting rotation is getting close.
Sabathia, who will return to the mound in Sunday night’s series finale against the Red Sox, will be making his first appearance since throwing five innings on May 22 and subsequently hitting the injured list with inflammation in his long-troublesome right knee.
“I feel my knee if I’m walking from [my locker] to the bathroom,” the soon-to-be 39-year-old said Saturday before the Yankees’ 5-3 win over the rival Red Sox at the Stadium. “It’s just a matter of if it gets too bad.”
For now, the knee is good enough for Sabathia (3-1) to attempt to capture his 250th career win after receiving a cortisone injection and having fluid drained. The southpaw has become far too familiar with that process.
“I felt pretty good about it the whole time,” said Sabathia, when asked of his confidence in returning quickly. “When we did the drainage and the shot, it wasn’t swelling.”
Sabathia, who also underwent heart surgery in the offseason, said he was surprised he made it to late May before needing the procedures on his knee, which he describes giving him shooting pain, and makes it possible for him to finish pitches.
“I felt pretty good coming into the year,” Sabathia said. “It’s kind of when it happens, it happens.”
Sabathia knows it’s always in danger of happening. After retirement, he expects to undergo knee replacement surgery.
“Just be smart about it and not push when I don’t need to,” Sabathia said of his plan. “That’s what [the May 22 start in] Baltimore was. Could I have pushed through it and made a couple more starts? Yeah, but I probably would have been where I was in August in ’17 when I was ready to go home and quit. I don’t want to get to that point.
“I hope when I retire I’ll lose a little weight and won’t be pounding it.”
Before the latest knee issue, Sabathia was enjoying another strong start to a season in his late career renaissance, sporting a 3.48 ERA and throwing at least five innings in his first eight starts for the first time since 2015. In his past eight starts against the Red Sox, Sabathia has gone 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good in my bullpens,” Sabathia said.
In the absence of Sabathia and James Paxton — who returned Wednesday after spending nearly four weeks on the injured list and threw four no-hit innings — manager Aaron Boone was forced to use an opener on multiple occasions. Now, the manager has no more holes to plug in the rotation and could soon even have a starter surplus.
The Yankees are believed to be one of multiple teams interested in picking up free agent pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who starting Monday can be signed without having to sacrifice a draft pick. The 31-year-old, two-time All-Star went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA last season with the Astros, and was scouted by the Yankees during his simulated game in California last week.
“I’ve heard those rumors, too,” Boone said. “I know we’re always having conversations about who’s available, improving our club in different ways.”