Sorry to keep going back to Cash's comments from the other night, but there was another thing he said that I thought was worthwhile and it's the quote above regarding CC Sabathia. Cash touches on every key buzzword that relates to the big guy these days: hope, question mark, rehab, velocity, innings. The last one is the one that stood out to me, particularly this part:
"... I do think that you're going to see a guy that can pitch in the middle of our rotation... "
Middle of the rotation, eh? That'd be a new role for Sabathia. Not in terms of performance or expectations, as everybody knows or should know by now that CC isn't the pitcher he was from 2009-2011 and never will be again. But in terms of public statements by the team, this is the first time Sabathia is being talked about as a mid-rotation guy and not the #1 starter on the pitching staff.
It's been a foregone conclusion that Sabathia would be the Yankees' Opening Day starter ever since he first signed with the team. He even got the first start last year when it was pretty clear he wasn't up to the task anymore. Doesn't sound like that will be the case this year. Tanaka is a better pitcher, Pineda proved himself to be a better pitcher, and if he decides to come back, Hirok is a better pitcher. If Tanaka is healthy, he should and likely will get the Opening Day start over CC. CC may still be getting paid like a #1, but he hasn't been pitching like one for years and now the Yankees appear ready to adjust their plans and expectations for him accordingly.
As far as we know, everything has been going well for Sabathia in his rehab efforts from the latest knee surgery. That knee has a ton of mileage on it though, and how it will hold up is one of the biggest unknowns of next season. Cash has reset the bar pretty low for CC, but it's still anybody's guess as to whether CC will be physically capable of reaching it. It would be great if he could settle into a mid-to-back-end innings eater role for the final few years of his deal. It's just not something Cash or the Yankees can count on right now.