Sabathia leaves Yankees to enter alcohol rehab
Veteran left-hander will miss postseason
NEW YORK -- On the eve of the Yankees' first postseason appearance in three years, left-hander CC Sabathia announced on Monday that he was checking himself into an alcohol rehabilitation center and will not pitch for the remainder of the season.
"Today I am checking myself into an alcohol rehabilitation center to receive the professional care and assistance needed to treat my disease," Sabathia said in a statement issued through the Yankees. "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.
"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. I want to thank the New York Yankees organization for their encouragement and understanding. Their support gives me great strength and has allowed me to move forward with this decision with a clear mind."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that Sabathia informed him of his alcohol abuse during a telephone call on Sunday afternoon, and that the organization was not previously aware of the problem. Sabathia left the team at Camden Yards, where the club was concluding the regular season, and traveled home. He was not present for the Yankees' workout on Monday at Yankee Stadium.
"What CC's dealing with is a life issue; it's bigger than the game that we have [tonight]," Cashman said. "And so because of that, it's vitally important that gets put in the proper perspective and place. He needs to tag out of this situation, which is a lot of pressure, and really step back and get the professional help necessary. He's not alone in this."
Sabathia's absence could mean that the Yankees offer a postseason start to right-hander Adam Warren should they defeat the Astros tonight and progress to the American League Division Series. Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to start tonight, and the Yanks also plan to have Luis Severino and Michael Pineda in their playoff rotation.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi could consider giving the ball to right-hander Ivan Nova, but Nova has been inconsistent in his first year back from Tommy John surgery.
"You have to be a little bit more creative, but it's something I've gotten a lot of practice with over the last three years," Girardi said. "We'll do that."
In August, Sabathia apologized for his role in an incident outside a Toronto nightclub in which he was involved in a shouting match with a heckling fan, which was caught on video. At the time, Sabathia said that he had made a "bad decision."
In hindsight, Cashman acknowledged that the uncharacteristic incident could have been a warning sign of the larger issue that has now prompted Sabathia to take action. Sabathia spoke to several teammates about his decision on Sunday and received a supportive reception in the clubhouse.
"The fact that he is tackling this in an honest and open way, the fact that he is doing it right before our postseason starts, you take a step back and you acknowledge the courage that must take," Cashman said. "Of course we're going to miss him. Could we have used him? Of course we could have used him.
"But none of that stuff matters, given where we're at and the circumstance he's dealing with. We're here to give him all the support we can to the best of our ability. The most important thing is he's taking responsibility and the necessary step to try to fix this problem and put himself and his family in a better position."
Teammates Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner expressed their support for Sabathia.
"It's a very courageous thing to do. We play for CC now," Rodriguez said. "CC has gone to the mat for us many, many times. I know me, personally, a lot of us in here, we wouldn't have a [World Series] ring if it wasn't for CC. So now we go to the mat for him."
Said Gardner: "I'm very proud of him for stepping up, admitting he had a problem, and realizing it's something that's a whole lot more important than what we've got going on here," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. "This is something that he obviously feels the need to deal with immediately, right away, and I definitely support him in that decision. I think we all do. And we wish him the best of luck."
Girardi said that he was surprised when Sabathia summoned him into the visiting manager's office in Baltimore and laid out the depth of the situation, admitted that he needed help and said that it could not wait. Girardi said that as he addressed his team prior to their workout on Monday at Yankee Stadium, he asked the players to pray for Sabathia.
"As difficult as this decision is to share publicly, I don't want to run and hide," Sabathia said in the statement. "But for now please respect my family's need for privacy as we work through this challenge together.
"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.
"I am looking forward to being out on the field with my team next season playing the game that brings me so much happiness."