Girardi expects CC to be part of '16 rotation

Yankees manager recently spoke to veteran lefty, says he 'sounds great'

Girardi expects CC to be part of '16 rotation

NEW YORK -- Nothing is guaranteed this early in the offseason, but as manager Joe Girardi begins to think about how he will handle the Yankees' pitching staff next year, it seems safe to pencil CC Sabathia in as part of the rotation.

Speaking at the General Managers Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday, general manager Brian Cashman hedged when asked if Sabathia would be assured of being one of the Yanks' five starters. Speaking at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Girardi indicated that there's little reason to think he wouldn't be there.

"If he's pitching the way he was at the end of the year, I don't see that," Girardi said. "I see him in our starting rotation. Obviously there's going to be a number of people that are vying for those five spots ... If he's pitching well, he's going to be in our rotation."

Cashman on Sabathia's rehab

Cashman said in Florida that his reluctance to guarantee a spot to Sabathia was not related to the left-hander's recent stint in rehab for alcohol abuse, but rather the Yankees' abundance of starting pitching options.

In addition to Sabathia, who was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA in 2015, the Yanks feature Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, Luis Severino, Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell as legitimate candidates.

"I liked what CC did for us down the stretch in September," Cashman said. "Once he got the knee brace perfected, he was a successful pitcher for that short period of time. Very effective. Certainly the hope is that he'll be a viable member of our rotation. Let's just see how the winter shakes out first.

"I'm not guaranteeing anybody anything, but what he did for us in September down the stretch in a series of starts, we took notice of it. Hopefully he found that secret formula that allowed him to get full extension over the rubber to finish off his pitches with that new brace."

Girardi said that he recently spoke to Sabathia, who bowed out to seek assistance the day before the Yankees' season-ending American League Wild Card Game loss to the Astros, and that he "sounds great."

"Obviously, I'm proud of how he stepped up and went and got help," Girardi said. "He was pitching really well at the end of the season for us. Hopefully this continues to help and he has a great season for us next year."

The Yankees do have some injury concerns, particularly with Tanaka, who had arthroscopic surgery after the season to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow. Girardi said that the Yanks expect Tanaka to return on time, and that the hurler's decision to have surgery was something of a surprise.

"It didn't keep him from making a start; it was never an issue," Girardi said. "It really never came across my desk that he was having a lot of problems. It wasn't what I expected at the end of the year. I didn't go into the last week of the season saying I knew he needed surgery, because I didn't."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.