The New York Yankees officially removed CC Sabathia from the ALCS roster on Friday morning for the American League Championship Series, replacing him with right-handed reliever Ben Heller.
Sabathia would not be eligible to return should the Yankees get to the World Series, so the 39-year-old left-hander has made his final appearance in pinstripes.
Sabathia’s knee buckled and his shoulder seemed to give out as he tried to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning of the Houston Astros’ 8-3 win in Game 4 of the ALCS Thursday night. He walked off the mound toward second, spoke with head athletic trainer Steve Donahue and tried a warm-up toss, hoping somehow to push through, but he had to leave.
The Yankees said Sabathia suffered a subluxation — or partial dislocation — of his left shoulder joint.
Sabathia, who along with outfielder Brett Gardner is one of the two remaining members of the 2009 World Series championship team, limped off the field with tears in his eyes. He had announced that he was retiring after the season.
“It’s tough man, he’s a great person, a great player,” outfielder Aaron Hicks said. “He’s gonna be a Hall of Famer. To see a guy like that go out like that is, is not the way you want to see it. He means a lot to this team, a lot to his organization, and for him to go out like that, it’s not something you want.”
Left-handed reliever Zack Britton, who spent eight seasons with the Baltimore Orioles before being traded to New York last year, reiterated the reputation Sabathia carries throughout the league.
“I played against CC longer than I’ve played with him so I know the respect that opposing teams have for him,” Britton said. “He’s done it in the game, but obviously off the field too. He’s really respected throughout the game, and guys know the type of career he’s had.”
A six-time All-Star and the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland, Sabathia finished with a 251-161 regular-season record with 3,093 strikeouts. He had made four trips to the injured list this year due to his balky right knee.
With their season on the line and Houston holding a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Yankees will have lefty James Paxton versus Astros ace Justin Verlander on the mound for a do-or-die Game 5. Paxton told ESPN that Sabathia would be his inspiration when he takes the mound Friday.
“Every time he’s on the mound, he gives us everything he’s got, and that’s what he did tonight. CC has had an amazing career, and it was too bad to see him get hurt like that,” Paxton said. “But it’s also just a testament to just the heart he has for this team, going out there and giving us everything he’s got until the last pitch.”
Heller had a 1.23 ERA and nine strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings for the Yankees this season after returning from Tommy John surgery.