Sabathia throws successful third bullpen, will head to Tampa to continue rehab
Manager Joe Girardi said the team is "encouraged" by the process, and Sabathia himself proclaimed that he had no problems and is ready for the next step.
"My arm feels great, my knee feels great, and I feel pretty good; I haven't experienced anything that I had been earlier in the year," he said after the session. "I'm excited about the way I feel, and my knee brace is helping a lot, so I'm ready to go.
That next step means heading to Tampa next week, where Sabathia will throw live batting practice on Tuesday and should begin an official rehab assignment, either with the GCL Yankees or Tampa Yankees, on Saturday.
Sabathia will have to wear a brace on that right knee full-time going forward - which he said has made his knee much more stable - but other than strengthening his legs all the way up the kinetic change, he's fortunate that he hasn't had to change anything about his actual mechanics at all.
"I'm just trying to get my quad and calf stronger to take the pressure off my hips, and I think we've done a good job of that since I've been on the DL," he said, "but the biggest thing was making sure I don't change anything. I think that's why we kind of waited so long, we wanted to make sure I was healthy."
All that said, he's also not concerned about what will happen when he ramps up his rehab, because as he noted, "I haven't been holding back."
"Today I got after it a little bit, and I have been in the bullpens. This is the time to test it, and I will keep doing it in Tampa, but I feel like I feel pretty good," he said.
Sabathia wouldn't put any kind of timetable on his eventual major-league return, but from the way he spoke, being back before the All-Star Break could still be an optimistic goal.
"I still have to wait every fourth or fifth day to throw, but I'm trying to go as fast as possible, and hopefully it's not five starts," he said. "But I feel good, and I feel like I'll be able to go; if I didn't, I wouldn't even be out there trying to go through this. I know how much (the knee) affected me and how good it didn't feel, and how that was putting the team in a bad spot."
Just having a light at the end of the tunnel, though, is huge for the left-hander.
"I've been on the DL for six weeks but it feels like two years; I've been sitting around here feeling sorry for myself and watching the team grind, and it's been tough, because you want to be out there helping," he said. "So yes, I feel better that I have a little light to see that I can get back out there to help soon."
And, when he does come back, Sabathia knows he'll be returning to bolster a good rotation instead of having to be a savior for it.
"Obviously Tanaka's been the anchor, but you look at what Chase and Phelpsie have done, these guys have stepped in and stepped up for us," he said. "Any time you lose three of your five starters, it really puts the team in a bad situation, but these guys have been able to step in and keep us afloat. The rotation has been fantastic."