CC Sabathia is disappointed and relieved all at the same time.
Sidelined with a right knee injury, the New York Yankees’ pitcher spoke to reporters Saturday morning for the first time since the team announced he will have season-ending surgery Wednesday.
Sabathia said the news was difficult to absorb and his situation is "not fun." But he’s glad doctors recommended an arthroscopic cleanup rather than microfracture surgery, which would have required perhaps an 18-month recovery.
"It’s tough. It’s unfortunate," Sabathia said. "But I feel, I guess, relieved that I have some answers, and kind of a plan in place to kind of move forward."
The big left-hander, who turns 34 on Monday, said he’s confident he will be back on the mound in spring training. And with a blueprint now in place for his return, he said he was able to get "some real sleep" Friday night for the first time in weeks.
General manager Brian Cashman, however, cautioned Friday that there’s no guarantee Sabathia will be able to pitch effectively next season.
The operation will be performed by Los Angeles Dodgers head physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Sabathia said he was told he can resume baseball activities six to eight weeks after the procedure.
"He feels good about it, and I do, too," Sabathia said, adding that NBA star Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder had the same surgery and came back fine. "Obviously, you’ve got to deal with a little bit of swelling here and there, but it’s something I have to do. My goal in talking to (Dr. ElAttrache) was to pitch the next five, six years and past this contract and be able to go out and do that. So I’m confident in that idea."
Sabathia also had surgery on his right knee in October 2010 to repair a small meniscus cartilage tear. He said he thinks the latest injury was caused by simple wear and tear.
"It’s something that I’m going to have to deal with probably for the rest of my life and eventually have a big surgery, but right now the goal is to keep playing, and this is the easiest way," he said.
Sabathia has been sidelined with a degenerative cartilage problem in his right knee since mid-May, and the Yankees all but ruled out a 2014 return after he had a setback early this month while on a minor-league rehab assignment. He was hit hard July 2 in an outing for Double-A Trenton and woke up the next morning with swelling in the joint.
The six-time All-Star and 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner made only eight major-league starts this year and finished 3-4 with a career-worst 5.28 ERA. He is 208-119 with a 3.63 ERA in 14 seasons.
After signing a $161 million, seven-year deal with New York as a free agent before the 2009 season, Sabathia had his contract extended in 2011 by one year and $30 million. Making $23 million this season, Sabathia is scheduled to earn $23 million in 2015 and $25 million in 2016. The Yankees have a $25 million option for 2017 with a $5 million buyout.
Despite his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame, Sabathia had been extremely durable until this year. He had made at least 28 starts and pitched 180 innings or more every season of his career, reaching 200 innings eight times.
"It’s something that I’ve never had to deal with. But I am now, and like I said, hopefully this will give me the time to heal and get healthy and come back to be ready to go in spring training," Sabathia said. "If that’s the case, and that’s the best-case scenario, especially at my age and with everything that’s happened and all the innings that I’ve pitched and everything, I guess I’m fine with that."