NEW YORK — CC Sabathia is checking into an alcohol rehab center and will miss the postseason, a setback to the Yankees pitching staff the day before the team’s opening playoff game.
The team issued a statement from the pitcher Monday, with New York awaiting the Houston Astros on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium in the AL wild-card game. Sabathia, the 2007 AL Young Award winner, said he took the step to receive the care he needs and become the kind of person “I can be proud of.”
“I love baseball and I love my teammates like brothers, and I am also fully aware that I am leaving at a time when we should all be coming together for one last push toward the World Series,” the 35-year-old left-hander said. “It hurts me deeply to do this now, but I owe it to myself and to my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease, and I want to be a better man, father and player.”
Sabathia informed manager Joe Girardi on Sunday in Baltimore, where the Yankees finished the regular season.
“The first thing he said is, ‘I need help,’” Girardi said. “I was shocked.”
Sabathia is 214-129 in 15 major league seasons and was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA this year, slowed by his surgically repaired right knee.
After returning from the disabled list and using a tighter brace, the 300-pound-plus pitcher was 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his last five starts and got the win against Boston last week that clinched the Yankees’ return to the postseason following a rare two-year absence,
“As difficult as this decision is to share publicly, I don’t want to run and hide,” Sabathia said. “Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.”
In mid-August, TMZ posted video of Sabathia getting into a confrontation with hecklers outside a nightclub in Toronto.
“I just flipped out, you know. I could have handled it better,” Sabathia said a few days later. “Made a bad decision. Sometimes these things happen,” he said.
The Yankees’ staff struggled in September, with Masahiro Tanaka’s hamstring injury and ineffective outings by Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova. If the Yankees beat the Astros, rookie Luis Severino, Pineda, Nova and Tanaka could be their starters in the AL Division Series against Kansas City. Sabathia likely would have gotten a start.
“The fact that it’s occurred and this is something we are dealing with the day before our playoffs start makes me that much even more impressed with the courage that it’s taken,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “He could’ve come up with a lot of different things to hide whatever he is dealing with right now.”
Known for his positive demeanor, charitable work and love of Cap’n Crunch cereal, Sabathia was a first-round draft pick by Cleveland in 1998 and made his big league debut three years later. Convinced they could not afford to re-sign him, the Indians traded him to Milwaukee during the 2008 season, and he helped the Brewers reach the playoffs.
Sabathia signed a $161 million, seven-year contract with the Yankees before the 2009 season and helped New York win the World Series during his first season in the Bronx. Rather than exercise his right to terminate the contract after the 2011 season, he agreed to a new deal — a $25 million guaranteed salary for 2016 and a $25 million team option for 2017 with a $5 million buyout.
“I am looking forward to being out on the field with my team next season playing the game that brings me so much happiness,” Sabathia said.