Commentary

Rest assured, Sabathia should be fine

Return to five-man rotation could spark Yankees' ace back into his winning routine

Updated: August 13, 2011, 12:02 PM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees will get back to a five-man starting rotation by Monday.

Seems like it couldn't happen soon enough for CC Sabathia.

Pitching on five days' rest for the third straight start, the 6-foot-7 Sabathia was cut down to size against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.

The Yankees' ace allowed a career-high five home runs -- all solo shots -- over eight innings in a 5-1 loss.

Sabathia bested his career mark in home runs allowed by two on Friday. He also gave up three solo shots in the third inning -- the second time he's done so in a major league uniform.

"It's a humbling sport," Sabathia said. "Today was definitely humbling."

Sabathia and the rest of the Yankees' rotation have been pitching on five days of rest, as opposed to the traditional four, since Ivan Nova returned to the club from the minors on July 30.

Manager Joe Girardi on Friday said he would pare the rotation down to five by Monday, when the Yankees will begin a seven-day, seven-game road trip.

That should be welcome news for Sabathia.

The big man downplayed the effects of an extra day away from the mound after his start on Friday. But the numbers in his last three starts, small sample size that they are, tell a slightly different story.

In his Aug. 1 outing against the Chicago White Sox, on five days' rest, Sabathia gave up a season-high 10 hits but just two earned runs. In his next outing after five days off -- on Aug. 6 against Boston -- Sabathia was lit up to the tune of a season-high seven runs on nine hits over six innings. And then there was Friday's meltdown.

CC Sabathia
Debby Wong/US PresswireYankees ace CC Sabathia has not been his best after five days' rest.

"He's just not quite as sharp as he was when he was reeling off his wins," Girardi said after Sabathia became the sixth Yankee in the live-ball era to allow five homers in a game, and the first to do so at the new Yankee Stadium.

Trouble found Sabathia in the third inning on Friday. He allowed back-to-back bombs to Casey Kotchman and Kelly Shoppach -- two guys who entered play Friday with a combined 13 home runs. After he struck out the next two Rays hitters, former teammate Johnny Damon drilled Sabathia's 1-1 fastball over the wall. The two homers allowed to lefties on Friday doubled Sabathia's season total.

Afterward, the Yankees' ace and Girardi both agreed that all of Sabathia's pitches were up in the zone.

"I just had a bad start," Sabathia (16-7, 2.93 ERA) said. "... Hopefully we can get it back on track. Hopefully I can step up and be that guy that everybody depends on."

He hasn't been in his last two outings, which will no doubt send Yankees fans on high alert considering the opponents (Boston and Tampa Bay).

And there may be cause for concern. Consider these numbers: Since he first put on the pinstripes in 2009, Sabathia is 6-11 with a 4.21 ERA against the Red Sox and Rays. He is 50-11 with a 2.88 ERA against everyone else. He is also 0-2 in five starts against David Price.

Both Girardi and Sabathia insisted fatigue was not a factor on Friday, and Girardi said he saw no reason to get Sabathia extra rest in the final six-plus weeks of the regular season.

Still, the manager admitted that if someone told him before Friday's first pitch that Sabathia would allow five home runs, there's no way he'd believe it.

"You never know what you're going to see at the ballpark," the manager said. "And tonight was a strange night."

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