WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- C.C. Sabathia said he generally shoots around 90 when he plays a round of golf. The Indians ace has decided that's not a score worth maintaining this spring.
In an effort to prevent another right oblique strain -- an injury that has set Sabathia back at the start of each of the past two seasons -- the big left-hander has put his clubs away. "I'm definitely not going to [golf] this year," he said. "[Golfing] probably had something to do with [the injury]." This is Sabathia's rationale, not the Indians'. The team has not ordered him off the course. Sabathia, who also golfs left-handed, just figures golfing and pitching have the same movement and body rotation, so he doesn't want to take any chances. "I can hold off," he said. "It's not worth it to go out and shoot 90." Sabathia, who looked solid in pitching two scoreless innings in his spring debut against the Tigers on Sunday, first took up golf during his rookie 2001 season. He said he's pretty strong off the tee, occasionally notching a 300-yard drive. "Probably one out of 10 times," he said. "But that one time keeps me out there." The threat of another oblique injury, which kept him from making the Opening Day start in 2005 and knocked him out of his Opening Day start and the first month of the season in '06, is enough to make that one-in-10 achievement insignificant in Sabathia's mind. All he needs is to remember how it felt to come off the field in the third inning of last year's opener in Chicago. "Just seeing the guys' faces when I came off the field, it was a tough situation," Sabathia recalled. "It was real quiet in the dugout. Guys didn't know what to think." As the ace of the staff, Sabathia, who turned in a 12-11 record and 3.22 ERA in 28 outings last season, feels a personal accountability to make each and every start. "If I stay healthy," he said, "the rest will take care of itself." And working on that golf game will have to wait. Lee watch: When Cliff Lee was scratched from his scheduled Friday start against the Phillies because of a strained right abdominal muscle, Sabathia told Lee to put his clubs down, too. For now, there's no word on whether Lee has taken that advice. There's also no word on when Lee will resume throwing. Indians manager Eric Wedge once again said Lee was feeling better Sunday, but, as of yet, no bullpen sessions are planned for the left-hander.
Enough, already: Sabathia is officially sick of being asked about his contract status. Two seasons away from free agency, Sabathia has been pestered with queries as to his desire to stay with the Indians beyond 2008 from all comers, ever since general manager Mark Shapiro made it known he would begin discussions with Sabathia's agent about an extension. "It's so far away," Sabathia said of free agency. "The only thing I'm worried about is helping this team win and going to the playoffs. Anything beyond that, I can't control." Rough day: The hot corner got a little hotter for Andy Marte on Sunday. Marte, who is slated to be the Tribe's everyday third baseman primarily because of his defensive skills, made one error and had at least two other playable balls hit his way that he couldn't get a glove on. "He had a rough day down there," said Wedge, who was planning to have a talk with Marte after the game. "He's better than that." The Indians have asked Marte, who was solid at third in the last two months of the '06 season, to stay focused on his defensive game this season, letting the offensive side of the game come naturally. Special guest: Former NFL Pro-Bowl linebacker Chris Spielman, an ESPN college football analyst and regular contributor on Columbus, Ohio, sports radio station 1460 The Fan is at camp as part of the Tribe's annual "Wahoo Week," in which eight of the team's radio affiliates will broadcast live from Winter Haven. Later this week, Spielman will suit up in an Indians uniform and shag fly balls in the outfield during the Tribe's batting practice. Tribe tidbits: Utility infield candidate Hector Luna's defensive troubles continued Sunday, as he made two errors on the day at shortstop -- dropping a popup and muffing a grounder. ... Luis Rivas, another candidate for the utility job, officially has Wedge's attention. Rivas looked solid at second base Sunday and also dropped down a bunt single in the second inning. "He does what you want to see in that role," Wedge said. ... Right fielder Trot Nixon remains absent from Grapefruit League activity, as he works his way back to full strength after offseason surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back. On deck: The Indians will make the long trek to Port St. Lucie on Monday for a 1:10 p.m. ET game against the Mets. Right-hander Jake Westbrook will make his second start of the spring against left-hander Oliver Perez. Paul Byrd, Rafael Betancourt, Aaron Fultz, Rafael Perez, Ed Mujica and Jeff Harris are also scheduled to throw for the Tribe.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.