Yankees starter CC Sabathia (the epithet "Yankees ace" is probably long out-of-date, as he's coming off two very rough seasons) reported to camp at 305 pounds, about 30 pounds heavier than he was last spring. That's good, if only because he doesn't look like a stranger. But Sabathia believes his regained bulk should make him a better pitcher.
Sabathia, who got down to 275 a couple of seasons ago, has not seen success with that frame. He had an ineffective 2013, and his 2014 was cut short for knee surgery. Sabathia says he'll be stronger if his body returns to its salad days.
"I lost a bunch of weight drastically, pretty quick, two years ago, and was kind of off-balance," Sabathia said Saturday. "I didn't know really how my body was working."
"I feel like this is a good weight," Sabathia said. "I feel a little stronger. I feel my legs under me, being a lot stronger, and being able to push off the mound."
Joe Girardi signed off on this bigger Sabathia, with the Yankees' doctor and trainers setting a target weight that's still below what he weighed in Cleveland, but one they expect will put less wear and tear on that knee.
Sabathia is under contract for three more seasons (the third has a buyout clause which would only kick in for injury to Sabathia's throwing shoulder, a preexisting condition the Yankees were worried about but one that hasn't yet showed itself), and it sounds like the name of the game is to just hang on. Sabathia said he's talked to Andy Pettitte about how to get hitters out once the fastball goes, and he sounded sober about the prospects of regaining much of the velocity that's deserted him in recent seasons.
"I have no idea," he said. "I can tell you this is my fifteenth year in the big leagues. My velocity is what it is."
Sabathia's knee condition is degenerative, so it's only going to get worse. He admitted he's needed three platelet-rich plasma injections to get him ready for spring training. He's 34 years old, but he's been remarkably durable throughout his career—which has always been one of his strengths—and racked up more than 2,800 innings, third most among active players. Time to try just about anything to squeeze more pitches out of him. Being in-shape didn't work; maybe being comfortable will.