By HOWIE RUMBERG, AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — CC Sabathia walked into manager Joe Girardi’s office in Baltimore on Sunday and made a stunning admission: He has an alcohol problem.
“The first thing he said is, ‘I need help,'” Girardi said Monday during a workout at Yankee Stadium for the AL wild-card game. “I was shocked.”
Sabathia surprised many in the Yankees organization by revealing his problem. And with the team’s help, the burly left-hander is checking into a rehab center and will miss the postseason, a setback to the pitching staff the day before New York meets Houston in the AL wild-card game.
The team issued a statement Monday from the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner, who said he took the step to receive the care he needs and become the kind of person “I can be proud of.”
“I love baseball and I love my teammates like brothers, and I am also fully aware that I am leaving at a time when we should all be coming together for one last push toward the World Series,” the 35-year-old Sabathia said. “It hurts me deeply to do this now, but I owe it to myself and to my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease, and I want to be a better man, father and player.”
A leader in the clubhouse who helped the Yankees to the 2009 World Series championship, Sabathia received the unconditional support of his teammates.
“We play for CC now,” Alex Rodriguez said.
Sabathia is 214-129 in 15 major league seasons and was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA this year, slowed by his surgically repaired right knee. After returning from the disabled list and using a tighter brace, the 300-pound-plus pitcher was 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his last five starts. He got the win against Boston last week that clinched the Yankees’ return to the postseason following a rare two-year absence.
“As difficult as this decision is to share publicly, I don’t want to run and hide,” Sabathia said. “Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.”
General manager Brian Cashman, along with the players and Girardi, would not elaborate on who was involved in helping Sabathia inform the team and come to the decision that he needed immediate help.
But Cashman did say that it wasn’t one incident that affected the timing of the decision, and that no one asked the six-time All-Star to put it off until after the postseason.
“It’s an acknowledgement that the issue that he has is bigger than what we are going through right now,” Cashman said.
In mid-August, TMZ posted video of Sabathia getting into a confrontation with hecklers outside a nightclub in Toronto.
“I just flipped out, you know? I could have handled it better,” Sabathia said a few days later. “Made a bad decision. Sometimes these things happen.”
The Yankees’ pitching staff struggled in September, with Masahiro Tanaka’s hamstring injury and ineffective outings by Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova. If the Yankees beat the Astros, rookie Luis Severino, Pineda, Nova and Tanaka could be their starters in the AL Division Series against Kansas City. Sabathia likely would have gotten a start.
“The fact that it’s occurred and this is something we are dealing with the day before our playoffs start makes me that much even more impressed with the courage that it’s taken,” Cashman said. “He could’ve come up with a lot of different things to hide whatever he is dealing with right now.”