HOUSTON -- Over the past decade, there is no pitcher that Joe Girardi has trusted with the ball more often than Carsten Sabathia, which is why the manager's voice quivered after he was presented with the possibility that the big left-hander may have left the mound for the final time
HOUSTON -- Over the past decade, there is no pitcher that Joe Girardi has trusted with the ball more often than Carsten Sabathia, which is why the manager's voice quivered after he was presented with the possibility that the big left-hander may have left the mound for the final time with the Yankees.
Sabathia's contract is set to expire after the World Series, and while the 37-year-old has said he wants to continue pitching as long as he is healthy, there is no guarantee that his next start will come for New York.
Sabathia took the loss in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World, allowing one run over 3 1/3 innings in the Astros' 4-0 victory.
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"CC will always be special to me because of what he stands for and the great player that he is, the great man that he is," Girardi said. "The wonderful teammate that he is. How he pulls a team together. He's as good as I've ever been around when it comes to a clubhouse guy, a guy that will take the ball when you're on a losing streak or that you can count on, and knowing that it could be the possible last time."
General manager Brian Cashman said a decision is yet to be determined, but he lauded Sabathia as having been a "tremendous" part of the Yanks' success over the past nine years.
Originally signed to a $161 million deal prior to the 2009 season that marked the richest for a starting pitcher at the time, Sabathia has gone 120-73 with a 3.75 ERA in 255 regular-season starts with the Yankees. He is 8-3 with 3.29 ERA as a Yankee in the postseason, and he hopes those numbers can still be improved upon.
"This is my home," Sabathia said. "I want to see this thing through. This is where I want to play."
Aaron Judge called Sabathia "the heart and soul of this team" and said the hurler's presence made a significant difference during his sensational rookie campaign.
"Just his preparation and how he prepared for games," Judge said. "For big-time situations, little-time situations, bases loaded, seventh inning, it didn't matter the situation. He was always the same guy. He was always prepared. He was always that calm guy who went out there and did his job. To see that as a rookie, it's impressive. A lot of guys in those situations would panic, but I never saw that from him. He's incredible. He taught me a lot this year."
Sabathia appeared to be emotional as he spoke at his locker in the Minute Maid Park visitors' clubhouse. Evan Gattis' fourth-inning homer marked the only extra-base hit allowed by Sabathia this postseason, in which he posted a 2.37 ERA over 19 innings.
"This is the tough feeling. I've felt this way too much," Sabathia said. "I want to come back here and finish it off. ... We came up one game short. I wasn't good enough tonight. That's all I can think about."
There was concern that Sabathia's career might be hanging in the balance two months ago, when he limped off the mound after an abbreviated start against the Blue Jays in Toronto, then was sent back to New York for an MRI. When that came back clean, Sabathia emptied the tank down the stretch and made four starts in the postseason.
"I'm very thankful for the years that I've had with CC," Girardi said. "He's taught me a lot, and our players can learn a lot from CC. The kind of fighter that he is, the things that he has to overcome to be successful: the knee issues and he doesn't have the 98 [mph] in the pocket anymore. And how he reinvented himself. He's special -- as special as they get."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.