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Sabathia ready to embrace leadership role

Veteran southpaw praises Boone, with whom he played two seasons in Cleveland
Special to MLB.com

TAMPA -- CC Sabathia is no stranger to changing roles, and as the 37-year-old enters his 10th season with the Yankees and 18th season in the Majors, he has transformed from a former rotation ace to a clubhouse leader and someone first-year manager Aaron Boone will likely lean on heavily.

Sabathia is ready to take on his new role, and the left-hander hopes to be someone younger players can come to for advice and guidance.

TAMPA -- CC Sabathia is no stranger to changing roles, and as the 37-year-old enters his 10th season with the Yankees and 18th season in the Majors, he has transformed from a former rotation ace to a clubhouse leader and someone first-year manager Aaron Boone will likely lean on heavily.

Sabathia is ready to take on his new role, and the left-hander hopes to be someone younger players can come to for advice and guidance.

"I think that's what I'm here to do," Sabathia said. "Obviously perform and try to pitch well, but to also try to be that presence and be here for guys."

Sabathia showed that he's still got plenty to offer on the mound after going 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts last season. His 14 wins were his most since 2013, and although Sabathia doesn't have the same overpowering stuff as when he signed with the Yankees in '09, he can still get batters out.

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Sabathia wants the set the tone in the clubhouse as the Yanks enter the season as one of the prohibitive favorites in the American League. It's a role that comes natural to him, but one that he will now be expected to fill. He and Brett Gardner were the only two players on the Yankees' roster last season that was part of the club's 2009 World Series championship.

"I can't say I was the leader when [Derek Jeter] and Andy [Pettitte] and those guys were here, but I felt like I was one," Sabathia said. "But it naturally happened when those guys starting retiring. "

Sabathia says the Yankees might have gotten away with being a young group last season, but they won't be sneaking up on anyone anymore after coming to within a game of the World Series and adding National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton.

"Last year was last year. I don't think we're going to get any more passes like we did last year," Sabathia said. "We are the Yankees. This is our reality. We have to embrace that and whatever comes along with it."

Video: ALCS Gm7: Sabathia induces groundout, escapes trouble

Boone and Sabathia were teammates with the Indians from 2005-06 and became close friends. Sabathia said that Boone has always had the mind of a manager, noting when the Yankees' new skipper wasn't playing, he would try to manage the game from the dugout.

"He was serious with it," Sabathia said. "He was really good at it. I knew he would be good on Sunday Night Baseball because of that. I'm just happy people are going to get to know his personality like I do. I think we just hit it off right away."

Sabathia adds that playing for an inexperienced manager could be a little uncomfortable, but he knows Boone, who described his relationship with Sabathia as "great," is qualified for the job.

"He's one of those guys, and not because I'm here now, [on] a short list for me of guys I have so much respect for," Boone said. "Over the course of a career, you play with a lot of superstar players, which obviously I'd throw CC in that category. And he's as grounded, as down to earth, as regular of a dude, but has those intangible things that allow somebody to be great.

"But just now being here with him and seeing him these first couple of days, as the elder statesman, as the veteran that he is, his impact in our room is enormous. I think he touches a lot of guys in there with his professionalism and his willingness to be a mentor. I think it's important you have guys in a clubhouse where messages don't always have to come from me or my coaching staff."

Ralph Long is a contributor to MLB.com.

New York Yankees, CC Sabathia