OAKLAND -- The mid-90s heat is just a memory at this point, no more likely to reappear in CC Sabathia's arsenal than the Core Four is to reassemble and lead the Yankees to another championship. Yet the big lefty is continuing to learn how he can win with an alternate approach.
Continuing to showcase his developing mix of pitches, Sabathia picked up where he left off earlier this month, returning from a stint on the disabled list with a groin strain to strike out eight over six innings of one-run, three-hit ball in Friday's 8-3 victory over the Athletics.
"He's capable of whatever. Check the back of his baseball card out," catcher Brian McCann said. "There's not too many guys walking around with his resume and his heart and his determination to be great. You never count guys like that out. We want him taking the ball every fifth day."
Making his first start since May 4 at Baltimore, Sabathia was credited with his 100th victory as a Yankee, becoming the eighth pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to reach the century mark in wins with multiple franchises.
That accomplishment is significant to Sabathia, who logged 106 wins with the Indians, then detoured briefly to the Brewers before joining the Yankees prior to the 2009 season.
"It means a lot. I've been on some good teams here," Sabathia said. "I've been lucky enough to stay healthy. Not the past three years, but it feels good."
Pitching in front of more than 100 friends and family members, the Vallejo, Calif. product limited the A's to Matt McBride's second-inning RBI single, throwing 64 of 98 pitches for strikes.
To the Yankees, Friday's effort provided more evidence that they can feel confident counting on Sabathia, 35, who entered the spring competing with Ivan Nova to serve as the club's fifth starter.
"When I take a look at CC, he's not the same pitcher he was in Cleveland, but he has something other pitchers don't have," Carlos Beltran said. "That is experience. He know how to pitch. He knows that he has to make adjustments. He has great stuff to compete in this league for many, many years."
Having improved the touch on a cutter he borrowed from Andy Pettitte to bust in on right-handed hitters, Sabathia has also raised the comfort level with his sinker, slider and changeup, giving him movement on both sides of the plate.
Because of that, McCann said that Sabathia looks like a "completely different pitcher" than he was last year.
"When you've got a pedigree like that, once something clicks, they can run with it," McCann said. "He's reinventing himself. He's not throwing 95 anymore. He's throwing 87 to 90. He's pitching. He's working the ball in and out and it's great to see."
And so this might just be the new normal for Sabathia, who believes he is still capable of being a 200-inning workhorse, even if he has to use some new tricks to get there.
"I just want to stay healthy, you know?" Sabathia said. "I know what I'm capable of when I'm out there and I'm healthy."