Thursday, July 4, 2013
First Pitch: Will CC join 300 Club?
By Wallace Matthews
MINNEAPOLIS -- If it could somehow be arranged that CC Sabathia only pitched against the Minnesota Twins for the remainder of his career, there wouldn't be any reason to ask the question in the headline. Sabathia's seven-inning, seven-hit, two-run performance Wednesday night was not only the 200th win of his career, it was the 11th time in his past 12 starts he has beaten the Twinkies.
Assuming 30 starts per season, at that rate he would hit No. 300 just about when his current Yankees contract is about to run out at the end of the 2017 season.
But Sabathia does not have that luxury, and as he himself pointed out Wednesday night, 300 is still a long way off.
And the overwhelming odds are, he's not getting there, and certainly not in a Yankees uniform. In fact, he jokingly said the only victory he was looking forward to now was No. 201 on Monday against the Royals.
Over his 16-year career, Sabathia has averaged precisely 16 wins per season, but with nine so far and about 15 starts to go, there is no guarantee he will hit that number this year, especially considering the inconsistency he has shown this season.
Wednesday night was one of his better performances of the season -- he was hit hard early but settled down to handle the Twins rather easily over the last four innings, a solo home run by Trevor Plouffe the only blotch on his evening after the third inning -- but it followed by five days one of his worst, when he took a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning against the Orioles and wound up losing 4-3 on a home run by Nate McLouth.
CC Sabathia notched his 200th victory on Wednesday night in Minnesota.
In fact, CC has displaced Phil Hughes as the most homer-generous of all Yankees pitchers this season, having allowed 18 already, the second-highest total in baseball (behind Jeremy Guthrie, Tommy Milone and Dan Haren, all with 19), and a total he did not reach until Sept. 3 last season.
Sabathia has wrestled with fluctuating velocity since the beginning of the season and has struggled with command of his fastball in trying to make the difficult adjustment from flamethrower to finesse pitcher.
"I think it’s still a work in progress," he said. "I think you’re always trying to get better, trying to reinvent yourself. I still got some work to do but hopefully I can keep getting better."
Sabathia took home the game ball from his 200th victory, one of the few keepsakes he has held onto from an excellent career -- "I know I have my first one but I'm not sure about any others," he said. "My wife might have them somewhere." -- but was understandably skeptical about whether he will be taking home a souvenir with the number 300 written on it.
"It seems so far away," he said. "I mean, you got to be lucky, you got to play on some good teams. That’s a long way away for me."
And of course, you've got to stay healthy. Last year, Sabathia went on the DL twice, with a groin injury and the elbow inflammation that eventually caused him to undergo surgery in the offseason. Even though he became the eighth pitcher in the modern era to win his 200th game before his 33rd birthday, that milestone is coming up, too, on July 21.
So if you press me for an answer today, I'm saying there's no way he gets to 300 wins, although 275 might well be within reach.
But what say you? Does Sabathia make it to the Golden Circle of 300 wins? If not, how many do you see him winding up with? Let us know in the comments section below.
UP NOW: The Rapid Reaction from last night's 3-2 win, and also a report from Charleston, S.C., by Ron Aiken, who has all the details of Alex Rodriguez's second game in the colors of the Charleston River Dogs. Plus, a blog in which Robinson Cano offers his theory as to why Ron Gardenhire chose to pitch to him with two runners on and first base open in the sixth inning, a decision that wound up costing the Twins the game.
ON DECK: The series finale against the Twins, the Yankees going for the sweep in a Fourth of July matinee matching David Phelps (5-5, 4.95), coming off a nightmarish outing (nine earned runs in 2 1/3 innings) against the Orioles, and RHP Kyle Gibson (1-0, 3.00), first pitch at 2:10 p.m. I'll be in the clubhouse when it opens at 11 a.m. and will have the lineups and all the pregame news shortly thereafter, so take a moment from your Independence Day picnic to check in from time to time. And as always, thanks for reading.