NEW YORK -- Carsten Sabathia had a 90 percent blockage in an artery leading to his heart prior to undergoing an angioplasty procedure on Dec. 11, but he has been told that he should expect no issues in what is anticipated to be his final big league season, the Yankees
NEW YORK -- Carsten Sabathia had a 90 percent blockage in an artery leading to his heart prior to undergoing an angioplasty procedure on Dec. 11, but he has been told that he should expect no issues in what is anticipated to be his final big league season, the Yankees pitcher revealed Thursday on his "R2C2" podcast.
Sabathia underwent a follow-up stress test this week that cleared him to resume workouts and begin baseball activities. He reports that he feels "100 percent better" than he did prior to the procedure, when he was limited to about two hours of sleep each night while experiencing symptoms that were initially believed to be acid reflux.
"It's crazy, because I was feeling so bad," Sabathia told co-host Ryan Ruocco. "I was walking around with Pepto-Bismol bottles and Tums, just thinking it was [acid reflux]. For it to be my heart was scary, but having the procedure and getting out of the hospital, I feel like a brand new person. For like three weeks, I wasn't sleeping, I couldn't eat. It was bad. So now I feel great."
Sabathia had been scheduled to fly to London with Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in December to promote the June 2019 overseas showdown between the American League East rivals. Despite the continued discomfort, Sabathia said that he attempted to begin his preseason workouts on Dec. 10, playing catch with Yankees reliever Dellin Betances.
"I kept telling [my wife] Amber I was having a heart attack, but it was more in the center of my chest," Sabathia said. "The pain didn't get into my left side until a couple of days before I did the stress test. I was like, 'My stomach is whatever, but I need to start working out, maybe that'll help it.' So I went to the gym, rode the bike a little bit and played catch with Dellin.
"Halfway through playing catch, I'm like, 'Man, I'm tired.' I was out of breath. My cardio has always been up; I've always been able to do cardio. For me not to be able to ride the bike and play catch, I'm like, 'Something is up.'"
Sabathia alerted the Yankees and had a stress test performed by head team internist Dr. Paul Lee at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. During his drive back to New Jersey, Sabathia was instructed to immediately return to the hospital.
"It wasn't scary, just because I didn't know," Sabathia said. "[Lee] was like, 'We need to do a procedure. You need to come back, you need to bring Amber.' I was like, 'All right, whatever.' I just thought it was another procedure. It wasn't scary until after talking to the doctor, and him telling me it was the widowmaker artery and a 90 percent blockage, and just seeing the way they put the dye in there and the way it wasn't pumping. It was crazy."
Sabathia said he was told to continue the health changes that he has made over the last three years, including abstaining from alcohol and dieting. Listed at 300 pounds in the team's media guide, Sabathia said that he plans to continue losing weight after retirement. The hurler lost a cousin, Demetrius Davis, to heart disease in December 2012 at age 45.
"Thank God I caught it when I did, just being able to have the doctors see me right away and get it done," Sabathia said. "It was definitely a blessing. Obviously, [with] my family history of heart attacks and heart issues, and me being so big in my 20s and all that, the doctor said that this was probably going to happen."
New York re-signed Sabathia to a one-year, $8 million contract in November. He was 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 153 innings in 2018, making 29 starts, and took the loss in the season-ending Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox. He is also recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, the third consecutive year he has required a cleanup.
Sabathia said the magnitude of the scare was difficult to process for about three or four days, but he is now focused on the future.
"The doctor told me that if I would have gotten on the plane to London, I wouldn't have made it back," Sabathia said. "To wrap my head around that ... I still wanted to go see [the match between] Liverpool and Manchester [United], so I was a bit bummed about that. After the first three or four days, it was about how I felt more than trying to look back on it."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.