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Shoulder injury ends Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia’s postseason, career

The 39-year-old left-hander is taken off New York’s playoff roster, thus ending his 19-year big-league career.
An emotional CC Sabathia is helped off the field during the eighth inning in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series against the Astros on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. The 39-year-old left-hander injures his pitching shoulder and is taken off the Yankees' postseason roster, thus ending his 19-year major-league career. [MATT SLOCUM | AP]
Published Oct. 19

NEW YORK — CC Sabathia’s major-league career is over.

The 39-year-old left-hander was dropped from the Yankees’ AL Championship Series roster on Friday, a day after he dislocated a joint in his pitching shoulder during the eighth inning of the Game 4 loss to the Astros.

“I think it’s just kind of fitting: I threw until I couldn’t anymore,” Sabathia said, his arm in a sling, his cap on backward, during a news conference at Yankee Stadium.

He recounted a conversation with his wife.

“I told Amber last night that this was the best way for it to end for me because of the way I’ve been feeling, loving the bullpen, jogging out, feeling pretty good. I feel like about July of next year I’ll be like, ‘I think I can pitch,’” he said.

Sabathia was replaced on the roster by right-hander Ben Heller. New York trailed 3-1 in the best-of-seven series heading into Friday’s late Game 5, but even if the Yankees advanced, Sabathia would not be eligible to return to the active roster.

“I was in a pretty good amount of pain last night and today. Waking up, I didn’t sleep that good,” Sabathia said. “It’s pretty sore, and the pain has been pretty intense since that pitch.”

A six-time All-Star and the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland, Sabathia finishes his 19-year career with a 251-161 regular-season record and a 3.74 ERA. Earlier this season he became just the 14th pitcher to record 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts. He finished with 3,093, placing him 16th all time and third among left-handers.

Sabathia announced before the season that this was going to be his last year, and he made four trips to the injured list caused by his balky right knee.

He said he was hurt Thursday on a 92 mph cutter that Aledmys Diaz popped up. “When I released the ball, my shoulder kind of went with it,” Sabathia said.

Sabathia remained in for three more pitches to George Springer, still throwing at up to 91 mph. He walked off the mound toward second, making a stretching motion with his arm. Head athletic trainer Steve Donahue came to the mound and Sabathia tried a warmup toss, hoping somehow to push through, but he had to leave.

“It’s kind of a perfect way,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He gave us everything he had, and he left it all out on the mound. Even though it’s sad to see him walking out, there’s something kind of awesome about it in a weird way, too.”

Even Springer and Astros co-ace Gerrit Cole joined in the fans’ applause as Sabathia limped off to a standing ovation.

“I think that’s what got me more emotional than the actual injury, just hearing the fans and the way that they were cheering me,” he said. “Makes me feel good. Makes me feel like I made the right choice 11 years ago.”

Sabathia signed with the Yankees as a free agent in December 2008.

When he reached the dugout Thursday, his face contorted, Sabathia took four steps down toward the clubhouse, then sat near the bottom, his back to the field, as Donahue tried to console him.

“Every single time he went out there, you had to rip the ball or his jersey off to get him off that mound,” Yankees slugger Aaron Judge said. “He got everything out of that arm. That’s a warrior right there.”

“It stinks,” reliever Zack Britton said. “It’s heartbreaking to watch him leave the field like that. I know how much pain he was in.”

Joe Girardi, who managed the Yankees to their 27th World Series title in 2009, Sabathia’s first season with the club, fought back tears during his postgame comments on MLB Network.

“That was not the way I wanted to see it end for him,” Girardi said. “CC, you’re a Hall of Fame pitcher that was as tough as any man I was ever around, what you went through on a daily basis just to be able to get on the mound. You were a great husband; you were a great father. You were probably the greatest teammate I’ve ever been around because of your ability to pull all 25 — and sometimes all 50 — people together in a clubhouse.

“You were the guy that I always wanted on the mound when we needed a win. It was a privilege for me to manage you for nine years. I love you, man.”

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