July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Nothing personal, CC Sabathia says in return to Cleveland

CLEVELAND — CC Sabathia was a man on a mission in his return to Progressive Field on Tuesday night.

New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the second inning Tuesday. (AP photo.)

New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the second inning Tuesday. (AP photo.)

Sabathia, pitching for just the third time at Progressive Field since the 2008 trade that sent him to Milwaukee for a bevy of prospects, showed the form that made him the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner. He tossed seven innings of six-hit, shutout baseball as the New York Yankees defeated the Indians 9-2.

He struck out 11 hitters, the 25th time Sabathia (12-4) has reached double digits in strikeouts. In his previous start he fanned 13 Milwaukee Brewers. Over the last two starts he has thrown 14 2⁄3 innings without allowing a run.

“I had all of my pitches working tonight and my velocity was good,” Sabathia said. “I just wanted to stay loose and work up a good sweat because there were a couple of long innings in there.”

By beating up on his former team Sabathia may have been sending a message to Rangers manager Ron Washington, who will lead the American League All-Star team and played a role in its selection. Sabathia was snubbed for the Midsummer Classic despite being tied for the league lead in wins and tied for seventh in strikeouts when the All-Star selections were announced.

“I didn’t let it bother me,” Sabathia said. “I just try to go out there and pitch my best every game.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Sabathia didn’t seem to be upset when the selections came out and his name was not on the list.

“I haven’t heard him say anything about it. CC is a pretty mild-mannered guy, he doesn’t let a lot bother him,” Girardi said. “I’ve been in that situation (as a manager) where you have to choose that team and it is tough. In my mind, though, I know he is an All-Star.”

Since joining the Yankees as a free agent prior to the 2009 season, Sabathia has cemented his spot among the elite pitchers of his era. With a career record of 169-92, Sabathia — two weeks shy of his 31st birthday — has more wins at the age of 30 than Bert Blyleven (167), Greg Maddox (166) or Roger Clemens (161).

In fact, no pitcher in the past 30 years has won as many games at such a young age. He is also the first pitcher since Tom Seaver to win at least 11 games in each of his first 11 seasons in the majors.

“This is as good of a run as he has had with us,” Girardi said. “He was strong until the end tonight and I know I could have sent him back out for another inning, but that’s an inning we are going to need him down the road.”

Over his last 10 starts, Sabathia is 9-1. In six of those starts he has allowed one or no earned runs.

His name is all over the record books in Cleveland as well as in New York. Sabathia left the Indians ranked fifth all time in strikeouts with 1,265. In baseball’s expansion era, only Charles Nagy (129) and Sam McDowell (122) won more games in an Indians uniform than Sabathia with 106.

More surprising is the fact that Sabathia has the all-time best winning percentage (.742) of any pitcher in the star-studded history of the Bronx Bombers.

Sabathia’s professional career began in 1998 when the Indians made him their first-round selection in the amateur draft. Although his heart is now in New York, he still pays attention to what is happening in Cleveland.

“The Indians have a good team. I am impressed with what Mark (Shapiro) and Chris (Antonetti) have done turning this team over again since back in 2007-08,” Sabathia said of the former and current general managers.

However, Sabathia said he no longer feels any special emotions stepping on the Progressive Field mound.

“It’s just like going to any other city now. I’ve been coming back here for three years now,” he said.

For Sabathia it may have been just another stop on the 162-game marathon that is a Major League Baseball season. But for Indians fans it was more like a look at what once was and what could have been.

Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.