Talented pals set for Bronx sequel

Talented pals set for Bronx sequel

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia walked to the mound on April 16, threw a fastball to Cleveland's Grady Sizemore and the $1.5 billion House that George Built was officially open.

On Wednesday night, weather permitting, the sturdy New York left-hander will report to the same mound at new Yankee Stadium, throw a pitch to Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins, probably a fastball, and open the first World Series in this opulent palace.

That -- the same pitcher handling such monumental moments -- in itself is what history is made of. The subplot is even more interesting, if not compelling.

Tale of the Tape: Game 1
2009 Regular Season
Overall: 34 G, 34 GS, 14-13, 3.22 ERA, 43 BB, 181 K.
Overall: 34 G, 34 GS, 19-8, 3.37 ERA, 67 BB, 197 K.
Key stat: Opponents batted .272 overall against him this season.
Key stat: Opponents batted .223 against him at home.
Postseason
2009: 3 G, 3 GS, 2-0, 0.74 ERA. Career: 3 G, 3 GS, 2-0, 0.74.
2009: 3 G, 3 GS, 3-0, 1.19 ERA. Career: 8 G, 8 GS, 5-3, 4.72.
At YANKEE STADIUM
2009: 1 GS, 1-0, 1.50 ERA. Career: 1 GS, 1-0, 1.50.
2009: 15 GS, 7-2, 3.17 ERA. Career: 15 GS, 7-2, 3.17 ERA.
Against this opponent
2009: 2 GS, 1-1, 3.00 ERA. Career: 9 GS, 4-4, 4.04.
2009: 1 GS, 0-0, 3.36 ERA. Career: 3 GS, 1-1, 4.35.
Loves to face: Johnny Damon, 2-for-22. Hates to face: Derek Jeter, 11-for-27.
Loves to face: Jayson Werth, 0-for-6. Hates to face: Ryan Howard, 3-for-7.
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Opponents hitting .165 vs. him this postseason.
Why he'll win: Has a 0.88 WHIP in the postseason.
Pitcher beware: Yanks have hit .197 against him in his career.
Pitcher beware: Phillies have a lifetime .716 OPS against him.
Bottom line: Has to be perfect to beat CC. Could lose a tight one.
Bottom line: Has been dominant in the postseason and at Yankee Stadium. Should continue that trend.

Sabathia's opponent on Opening Day 2009 was close friend and former Indians teammate Cliff Lee. Starting for the Phillies in Game 1 will be the same Cliff Lee, but hurling for a different team.

This is a for-real script that couldn't have been fantasized any better.

Lee was the winning pitcher the day the new stadium opened, allowing seven hits and one run over six innings. The Indians rallied for their 10-2 victory after Sabathia left the game with two outs in the sixth.

Lee says pitching the first game in the new park was "kind of a big deal. I remember the media asking tons of questions and making it a huge thing. For me, I tried not to focus too much on that and focus on getting their hitters out."

When Lee was traded by the Montreal Expos to the Indians in 2002, he and Sabathia, already on his way to becoming an established pitcher, became the closest of friends.

In fact, Lee says "CC is the closest friend I have in baseball."

Sabathia, the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner for Cleveland, was traded to Milwaukee in July 2008, and he helped the Brewers make the postseason for the first time since 1982. That propelled him to a lucrative free-agent contract with the Yankees.

Lee, 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner, was dealt to the Phillies in July.

"This is really weird," says Sabathia. "We opened up this stadium, and that was pretty cool. Just a couple of years ago we were talking about maybe playing in the World Series together. Now, we're in different clubhouses. It's just a little weird, but it'll be fun."

Lee says the two became close friends "because we have similar type personalities -- laid-back personalities. We're obviously both super-competitive. When I first got to the big leagues, CC has been there for a couple of years and he was more of a veteran than I was, but I was older, so it kind of a weird relationship.

"I think we made each other better. We helped each other out as far as how we thought we should approach certain teams and just what's the best frame of mind to have on the mound."

There's also another footnote to this "Small World Department" yarn. Or maybe it should be called "Old Home Week."

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who skippered the Indians (2000-02) was a mentor to Sabathia, who made it to the Major Leagues in 2001.

"Charlie was great," says Sabathia. "I owe him everything, because at the time when I came up, I was 20 years old, and the front office didn't want to bring a 20-year-old up to the big leagues.

"But Charlie told me at the beginning of Spring Training, if I pitched well enough, he was going to take me. He kept his word. He was great to me, and we have a great relationship."

Sabathia was 17-5 his rookie season, proving once again how talented Manuel is at encouraging players and building their confidence -- and at times standing up to and disagreeing with front-office decisions.

"CC is a great talent and a tremendous pitcher," says Manuel. "The first time I saw CC, we took him to the Hall of Fame game when he was in the Minor Leagues. He was one of our high Draft choices, and we brought him up for that game.

"He got lit up pretty good. But I walked up to him and said, 'Don't worry about it, kid, because you're going to be a real good pitcher one of these days. You're going to pitch in the big leagues for a long time.'"

Manuel says that during a Spring Training exhibition game in Venezuela in 2001 against Houston, he was convinced Sabathia was ready for the Majors when the lefty pitched out of a bases-loaded jam.

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

Manuel adds "we used to get in these arguments during every meeting that we had with the player development department. I'd want to keep him, and finally we won out, and we promised that when we took him that we would kind of monitor him and break him in. From the middle of August through September, CC was our best pitcher."

Lee says it's been a great opportunity for CC and himself -- leaving Cleveland and going to teams that are in the World Series.

"Going to the Yankees was a big accomplishment for him -- and for me to get traded to the Phillies, the defending World Series champions and jump on board with them and end up back in the World Series for a second consecutive year is special."

Lee adds there's nothing he'd like better than to beat his buddy.

"I'm going to do everything I can to take advantage of this opportunity," the Phillies lefty says.

For one baseball game, one World Series game, Sabathia and Lee will be bitter enemies.

Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.