Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced on Tuesday that Masahiro Tanaka will be given the ball on Opening Day for the third consecutive season.
As for the rotation’s chain of command, that has yet to be determined. But 36-year-old CC Sabathia believes he can be next on the list, while also standing on two healthy legs.
“I am ready to go. I have been running on the treadmill at 100 percent,’’ Sabathia told the New York Post at the team’s minor league complex.
Tuesday marked the beginning of Sabathia’s eighth year at Yankees spring training camp in Tampa. Last February, the veteran lefty was vying for the fifth rotation spot against ex-Yankee Ivan Nova. Sabathia managed to win the job by the last week of March, but his overall regular season performance wasn’t too gratifying. In 30 starts, Sabathia finished 9-12 with a 3.91 ERA, despite throwing 179.2 innings, the most frames he had tallied since 2013.
Though the numbers aren’t enchanting, Sabathia told the Post he would “sign up” for similar results in 2017.
“I thought CC pitched pretty well last year for us,” Girardi said during a Tuesday press conference.
But Sabathia’s future success — whether it comes this season or perhaps next — will be contingent on the status of his right knee. In October, he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. He hasn’t thrown off a mound since his last start, which came on Sept. 29 against Boston.
“If I am healthy I will play as long as I can. It depends on being healthy,’’ said Sabathia, who has spent time on the disabled list in each of the past five seasons. “I want to play as long as I can.’’
Any future opportunities for Sabathia will most likely arise from other ballclubs. Sabathia is entering the final year of a five-year, $122 million contract with New York, in which he’s due $25 million. But, like every teammate of his, Sabathia is eager to discover which prospects will win roster spots, and who will put their mark on a Yankees team which isn’t deemed the favorite in the American League East.
“Yeah, it’s a tough position to be in as far as them, because of the expectations. But for us, if we can can fly under the radar and kind of do our thing, hopefully we can make a run at it,’’ Sabathia told The Record. “It’ll be a little more comfortable for us because nobody’s expecting anything out of us.
“I think the staff will be good. I mean, look at the arms that will be battling for that last spot. There’s some great talent there.”