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CC set for 2 relief auditions; Stanton on track

'Whatever they have in store,' Sabathia says of postseason role
@BryanHoch
September 20, 2019

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia has toiled on a big league mound for 3,576 1/3 regular-season innings, plus 129 1/3 more in the playoffs. All but four of the outs he has recorded have come as a starting pitcher, and as the left-hander enters the final weeks of his career,

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia has toiled on a big league mound for 3,576 1/3 regular-season innings, plus 129 1/3 more in the playoffs. All but four of the outs he has recorded have come as a starting pitcher, and as the left-hander enters the final weeks of his career, he is preparing for a new challenge.

Sabathia is expected to appear twice out of the bullpen during the Yankees' upcoming road trip -- once against the Rays on Tuesday or Wednesday and once against the Rangers next weekend -- as the 39-year-old auditions for a role on the postseason roster. Sabathia has said that he is open to pitching however the team needs him.

"Whatever they have in store," Sabathia said. "If I have a new role, I definitely want to pitch in that. I'll just have to wait and see."

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Sabathia's only previous relief appearance came in the deciding Game 5 of the 2011 American League Division Series against the Tigers, when starter Ivan Nova was lifted after two innings. The Yankees called upon Phil Hughes and Boone Logan before Sabathia, who struck out four but allowed a run-scoring single to Victor Martinez in New York's 3-2 loss.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that Sabathia's first relief appearance will probably come in a controlled environment, giving him a clean inning against the Rays. If that goes well, they may experiment with having Sabathia warm up quickly to enter in the middle of an inning at Texas.

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Sabathia has endured three stints on the injured list this year due to a balky right knee, though he said that his pain is currently manageable.

"As much as he has to deal with the knee, I feel like he's at least in a pretty good place right now to be able to do it," Boone said. "He's always been a guy, from an arm standpoint, that's bounced back. We're going to have to walk through this and see how he responds to it, because we feel like there's a significant role there that he can play, whether it's in short spurts or giving us some length in different areas."

There will be important innings to absorb in the anticipated absence of right-hander Domingo Germán, who was placed on the restricted list on Thursday while Major League Baseball investigates an alleged incident of domestic abuse.

A source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand on Friday that Germán is not expected to pitch during the remainder of the regular season or in the postseason.

To replace Germán's innings, Boone said, "It'll be a little bit of everyone. It'll be more decisions to make as far as rounding out whether we go 11, 12 or 13 pitchers. Depending on who we're going to match up with in the first round, we'll make those decisions accordingly and then try to piece it together as best we can."

On track
Giancarlo Stanton made it through his first two games of the month without any new health concerns, according to Boone, who said that he expects the slugger to play about six or seven innings in the outfield on Saturday. Stanton missed 73 games with a strained right posterior cruciate ligament.

"It'll probably be similar to the other day; three at-bats, then we'll work it from there," Boone said. "But he came out of these two games really well. He's in there working right now, and I'm encouraged where he's at physically."

The Gardy party
The Yankees entered the season saying they would need to find ways to give Brett Gardner more rest, believing that his performance suffered in the second half of 2018. Gardner is playing in his 134th game on Friday, yet the 36-year-old veteran has responded with one of the best all-around seasons of his career.

"It's nice to play a part in this one," Gardner said. "I'm just proud to be a part of this special group of guys. We've got a really good team, and I think we can be even better than we've been."

Gardner has batted .254/.330/.508 with a career-high 26 homers and 69 RBIs, logging a 120 OPS+ while playing his usual brand of excellent defense.

"It's one of the reasons we're here," Boone said. "There's no denying how good of an all-around player he's been between the lines for us. He's still an elite defender, the power has been there, he's hit all around the lineup. What he brings behind the scenes in a lot of ways, the hunger that I feel exists with this team, he's one of the reasons why. He's one of the drivers of that. I think guys take his lead on that."

Comeback trail
• Edwin Encarnación (internal left oblique strain) took dry swings on Thursday and is expected to return to the lineup during the upcoming road trip.

• Gary Sánchez (left groin strain) "is probably a little further behind" Encarnación, according to Boone, though the manager added that the club remains optimistic that Sánchez will be ready for the ALDS.

This date in Yankees history
Sept. 20, 1968: Mickey Mantle hit the 536th and final home run of his career, a third-inning solo shot off Jim Lonborg of the Red Sox. At the time of Mantle's retirement, he trailed only Babe Ruth (714) and Willie Mays (587) on the all-time home run list. Mays would retire with 660 home runs after the 1973 season.

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