- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia says he will be the same ace he's always been come 2014 -- just different.
Sabathia, after the worst individual season of his career ended early because of a pulled hamstring, vowed to be a "bully" again and to regain his perennial Cy Young contender form as the ace of the New York Yankees' staff. However, he acknowledges he must bow to age and make some major adjustments, including increased diligence in his preparation.
"I think I'll be back to myself," Sabathia said in his first comments since the Yankees announced that his Grade 2 left hamstring strain ended his season with one start remaining. "I know a lot of people have written me off and said that I've thrown too many innings, whatever, whatever, but I'll still be here and still be accountable and still be the guy that signed up for 2009."
Sabathia, 33, finished the year 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA. Sabathia's ERA is the sixth-worst among qualified starters in all of baseball. His 28 homers allowed are tied for the fifth-worst in baseball.
He has three guaranteed seasons and $71 million remaining on his contract. If he avoids injury, a fourth year and another $25 million would be added for 2017.
In the meantime, Sabathia plans to finally change how he prepares, overcoming what he called a "stubborn" attitude about looking at video.
"I've always been a guy that never watched video," Sabathia said. "That is something that I need to change. My preparation for games probably needs to get a little better in that way."
Sabathia thinks that hitters knew his pattern of pitches, but he was not armed with the same knowledge about their approach. When he could overpower opponents, the reconnaissance was unimportant, but now Sabathia thinks he needs every advantage he can find.
Sabathia and his manager, Joe Girardi, thought that the pitcher looked like an ace on Friday. In the midst of hurting his left hamstring in the second inning, Sabathia went on to throw seven innings of one-run ball. It was the first time he had gone seven innings or more and allowed one run or fewer since late May.
Postgame, Girardi was shocked to discover Sabathia pitched so well with the injury. A constant source of questioning all year has been the diminished velocity on Sabathia's fastball. It dropped, on average, from 94 mph in 2012 to 91 mph this season. But Girardi said Sabathia's command of his heater on Friday was a sign that success could beckon next season.
"It leads me to believe that next year is going to better," said Girardi, who expects Sabathia to start Opening Day in 2014. "I think there were some things he had to adjust to. Everyone talked about his velocity the whole year long, but he didn't have that little bit of extra that he could rely on. Sometimes you have to make some adjustments."
Sabathia, who has weighed more than 300 pounds in his career, looked noticeably slimmer this season, but he said the reduced weight had no impact on his reduced results.
"I think it was a bad year," Sabathia said. "I don't think me losing any weight, contrary what anyone says, had a big effect on me. If anything, it helped me."
Sabathia, after throwing nearly 3,000 regular and postseason innings in his 13-year career, didn't acknowledge that the velocity won't come back, but said he won't be able to pitch as he did when he first signed with the Yankees.
"I don't think I'll ever be that same guy again," Sabathia said. "I'm 33 this year. Pitching against San Francisco the other day, I felt back to myself than any other start. It wasn't velocity. I was 90-93. It was just pitching inside, throwing fastballs in hitter's counts. Just going out there and being a bully. I felt like that was something I was before and kind of lost it this year."
The hamstring is expected to take eight weeks to heal, giving Sabathia plenty of time to be ready for spring training in February.
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