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Yankees bench Sabathia for opening MLB playoff series

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New York (AFP)

Injury-nagged New York Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia might have thrown the final game of his 19-year Major League Baseball career after the team left him off their first-round playoff roster.

The Yankees announced Thursday that 39-year-old left-hander Sabathia would not play in the best-of-five American League division series against the Minnesota Twins that opens Friday at Yankee Stadium.

Sabathia, who helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series, had a stent inserted into his heart last December and said in February this would be his final season.

In April, Sabathia became only the third major league lefty to record 3,000 career strikeouts but right knee issues that doctors say will require knee replacement surgery after the season forced him to the injured list in May, July and August.

Sabathia went 5-8 with a 4.95 earned-run average and 107 strikeouts over 107 1/3 innings.

But after the first relief appearance of his career on September 24, Sabathia's left shoulder did not recover well, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

After a cortisone injection, Sabathia threw a simulated game on Tuesday in a final audition for a playoff spot.

Boone says the Yankees expect to activate Edwin Encarnacion, who had been dealing with a strained left oblique. Boone says the first baseman and designated hitter should be in the lineup for the opener.

James Paxton will pitch in game one for the Yankees against Minnesota with Japan's Masahiro Tanaka following Paxton to the mound in game two Saturday and Luis Severino starting game three on Monday at Minnesota.

It will be the first playoff start for lefty Paxton, who was 15-6 with a 3.82 earned-run average and 186 strikeouts this year.

Tanaka went 11-9 with a 4.45 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 182 innings. He has a 1.50 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 30 innings in five playoff starts for the Yankees.

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