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MINNEAPOLIS -- CC Sabathia is the rare baseball player who not only makes the people around him better, he makes them who they are.
Last year, he turned Joe Girardi into a World Series manager. He made it possible for Alex Rodriguez to change his reputation from Mr. Choke to Mr. Clutch. He let the Core Four slip on another ring in old age.
While they all, of course, had a huge hand in redefining themselves, Sabathia led them there, pitching every three days in October and November. He made it possible.
|Will the magnitude of the moment get to Yankees ace CC Sabathia? Now that's a laugh.|
Now, the New York Yankees are prepared to ask him to do it again. At least in the Division Series.
Sabathia, the 6-foot-7, 300-pound ace, ended the Yankees' near-decade long drought without a title. When he picks up the baseball at Target Field on Wednesday, he will try to turn this current group of Yankees into a dynasty.
He does it having pitched more than 1,000 inning (including the playoffs) the past four years. That is more than anyone in baseball.
"He is a horse," Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Sabathia, 30, is the most indispensible Yankee and the closest thing to a sure thing they have going. Andy Pettitte has groin and back problems. Phil Hughes is scheduled to make his first postseason start at Yankee Stadium. A.J. Burnett is nursing a bad head.
So Sabathia will try to deliver championship No. 28, just as he did No. 27.
"You've got to have a guy like that if you are going to be successful in the postseason," Yankees designated hitter Lance Berkman said. "The postseason is 100 percent about pitching. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching."
Sabathia is to consistency what Burnett is to flakiness. Sabathia's 2009 and 2010 are nearly identical. He had the exact same amount of strikeouts (197) and starts (34), while his WHIP and batting average against were percentage points different. Overall, he finished 21-7 with 3.18 ERA, which might be good enough to win this season's AL Cy Young.
If Sabathia matches last fall's postseason numbers, the Yankees might have another parade in November. After continually throwing on three days' rest, allowing Girardi to have a minimalistic approach to starting pitching, Sabathia was 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five postseason starts in 2009. He had one no-decision.
He beat the Twins 7-2 to begin last October, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing just one run.
It sounds crazy now, a year after that start, but heading into it there were some who questioned Sabathia's big-game ability. Sabathia had started only five playoff games before last season and two of them were terrible. He failed to go more than six in any of them.
Sabathia admits he tried to do too much in those games, looking to throw a no-hitter instead of just throwing well.
But Sabathia is built for these big moments, in body and mind. He has the physical skills, but he also has that carefree attitude that allows a player to maintain his routine as though it were a regular-season game.
"I am the same," Sabathia said.
What is different is the way the schedule sets up. Girardi will not be able to just ride Sabathia. While he can pitch on three days' rest in the ALDS, it will be much more difficult, schedulewise, in the ALCS.
But that is for another day. On Wednesday, it is Sabathia again, trying to start the Yankees off with a win.
Last October Sabathia not only allowed Girardi, Rodriguez and the old Core Four to redefine who they are, he allowed himself to as well. This October, he is trying to go from defining to dynasty.
Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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