July 1, 2016

Intermittent clouds

‘Big C’ looking for deal


Staff Writer

CLEVELAND – 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 Cleveland’s ace.

Not only does Sabathia begin the season without a contract in what could be his last in an Indians uniform, he’ll be opening it for the first time at home in Cleveland – a city where he’s spent the entire seven years of his big league career.

“I’m excited,” said Sabathia, the Indians’ opening day starter in five of the last six seasons. “It’s the first time I’ve ever opened up at home. I’m excited to get in front of the home crowd again, especially after all the support we got last year.

“Everybody knows how I feel about this team, this city.”

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 – the most opening-day assignments since Bob Lemon’s five from 1950-56. Only Stan Coveleski (6) and Bob Feller have opened more seasons for the Indians than Sabathia, the American League’s defending Cy Young Award winner.

“I got a chance at a young age to be the opening-day guy, with Bartolo (Colon) leaving,” said Sabathia, who has missed one opener assignment with an injury in 2005 since Colon was traded during the 2002 season. “I don’t know if I was ready for that, but I’m ready now, and I’m honored to take the ball for the organization.”

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 Cleveland’s home-opening festivities a year ago.

“I’m prepared for whatever happens,” said Sabathia, who opened the 2003 season with snow falling in Baltimore. “I think it will be just as tough on the hitters as it will be on me, so, we’ll see.”

Opening the season at home won’t just be a new twist for Sabathia, but for the organization as a whole. Cleveland hasn’t played its first game at home since the 2001 season against Chicago and only twice over the last 13 years.

It’s a different schedule that Sabathia and the rest of his teammates are looking forward to following.

“It’ll be a really nice change,” said designated hitter Travis Hafner. “We haven’t had the home opener for a long time, so it will be nice to play in front of our home fans.

“Everybody’s excited. We’re anxious to get this going.”

Assenheimer may be reached at cassenheimer@chroniclet.com or 440-329-7137.