By CHRIS ASSENHEIMER
CLEVELAND â€“ C.C. Sabathia will be on the mound today to open the year for the Indians once again. Only this time, there will be a couple of new twists for Clevelandâ€™s ace.
Not only does Sabathia begin the season without a contract in what could be his last in an Indians uniform, heâ€™ll be opening it for the first time at home in Cleveland â€“ a city where heâ€™s spent the entire seven years of his big league career.
â€œIâ€™m excited,â€ said Sabathia, the Indiansâ€™ opening day starter in five of the last six seasons. â€œItâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve ever opened up at home. Iâ€™m excited to get in front of the home crowd again, especially after all the support we got last year.
â€œEverybody knows how I feel about this team, this city.â€
The 6-foot-7, 295-pound left-hander on the hill to begin the season has been a familiar sight for the Indians, with Sabathia set to make his fifth straight opening-day start â€“ the most opening-day assignments since Bob Lemonâ€™s five from 1950-56. Only Stan Coveleski (6) and Bob Feller have opened more seasons for the Indians than Sabathia, the American Leagueâ€™s defending Cy Young Award winner.
â€œI got a chance at a young age to be the opening-day guy, with Bartolo (Colon) leaving,â€ said Sabathia, who has missed one opener assignment with an injury in 2005 since Colon was traded during the 2002 season. â€œI donâ€™t know if I was ready for that, but Iâ€™m ready now, and Iâ€™m honored to take the ball for the organization.â€
Sabathia, the rest of his teammates and their opponent, the Chicago White Sox, are expected to be greeted by inclement weather, forecasts calling for clouds, wind and a high temperature of 55 degrees, with a 30 percent chance of rain. But they should be able to avoid the snow that ruined Clevelandâ€™s home-opening festivities a year ago.
â€œIâ€™m prepared for whatever happens,â€ said Sabathia, who opened the 2003 season with snow falling in Baltimore. â€œI think it will be just as tough on the hitters as it will be on me, so, weâ€™ll see.â€
Opening the season at home wonâ€™t just be a new twist for Sabathia, but for the organization as a whole. Cleveland hasnâ€™t played its first game at home since the 2001 season against Chicago and only twice over the last 13 years.
Itâ€™s a different schedule that Sabathia and the rest of his teammates are looking forward to following.
â€œItâ€™ll be a really nice change,â€ said designated hitter Travis Hafner. â€œWe havenâ€™t had the home opener for a long time, so it will be nice to play in front of our home fans.
â€œEverybodyâ€™s excited. Weâ€™re anxious to get this going.â€
Assenheimer may be reached at email@example.com or 440-329-7137.