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CC embracing Yanks' status as team to beat

Veteran lefty feeling great, ready to help Yankees make another postseason push
MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- When CC Sabathia commented earlier this month that the Yankees have returned to being baseball's "hated team," the veteran left-hander was surprised anyone thought differently. That is the way it has usually been during his career, and how his teammates expect it to be in 2018.

"When I was with the Indians, it was just one of the teams you always wanted to beat," Sabathia said. "When the Yankees came to Cleveland, you wanted to play well. When you go to Yankee Stadium, you want to play well. We want that back. We want that big-dog presence back where we can go out and try to beat everybody every night."

NEW YORK -- When CC Sabathia commented earlier this month that the Yankees have returned to being baseball's "hated team," the veteran left-hander was surprised anyone thought differently. That is the way it has usually been during his career, and how his teammates expect it to be in 2018.

"When I was with the Indians, it was just one of the teams you always wanted to beat," Sabathia said. "When the Yankees came to Cleveland, you wanted to play well. When you go to Yankee Stadium, you want to play well. We want that back. We want that big-dog presence back where we can go out and try to beat everybody every night."

Sabathia joined MLB Network's "Hot Stove" in the studio on Monday morning, one day after the 37-year-old hurler was honored by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America as their "Good Guy" Award winner for 2017.

Video: Sabathia honored with 'Good Guy' Award by NY BBWAA

Wearing an emerald green tuxedo at the event alongside teammates Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, Sabathia appeared more svelte than he did last October. He said that he recently completed a 22-day run on a raw vegan diet.

"Nothing cooked for 22 days; I felt great," Sabathia said. "I'm trying to stay on it. I don't know if I could do it during the season, but when I retire, for sure, I could probably be vegan and not miss anything. … I'm not losing a lot of weight and I didn't want to lose a lot of weight, but I feel real strong and I feel tight, if that makes sense. I never felt tight before."

Video: Lindsay Berra joins CC Sabathia's offseason workout

Sabathia was 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 regular-season starts last year, and then he made four starts in the postseason, including the deciding games of both the American League Division Series and the AL Championship Series.

Starting Game 5 of the ALDS in Cleveland was a special experience for Sabathia, who was a first-round Draft selection of the Indians in 1998.

"It was great for me to be able to go back and pitch there, especially in the playoffs," Sabathia said. "Not being there in 10 years and going back in such a huge series, I just felt comfortable. That kind of feels like home for me, too, because I played there for so long, pitched so many games there. I felt confident going out there both games on the road, especially Game 5."

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Sabathia strikes out nine in Cleveland

As he prepares to begin his 18th Major League season, Sabathia is putting the finishing touches on what could be a compelling Hall of Fame case. A six-time All-Star and the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner, Sabathia has won 237 games with a 3.70 ERA in 509 starts, ringing up 2,846 strikeouts in 3,317 innings.

Sabathia has compiled a 117 ERA+ with 60.7 Wins Above Replacement, numbers that already compare favorably with 17 men currently in the Hall who threw more than 2,500 innings, including Jim Bunning, Lefty Gomez, Catfish Hunter, Red Ruffing, Early Wynn and 2018 inductee Jack Morris.

"I never play for that," Sabathia said. "I always played for team goals and trying to win championships. I can't start trying to play for it now. If it happens, that'd be great, but wherever I end up, I'm fine with it."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, CC Sabathia