Yankees LHP CC Sabathia believes the young New York team has tremendous upside entering the 2017 season, and is capabale of exceeding expectations and contending for a spot in the playoffs.
"I think we have a tremendous amount of talent in the room," Sabathia said, according to Brian Heyman of Newsday. "We are very young, but I think we have a chance to be able to open up some eyes and kind of surprise some people, I guess."
Following the end of last season, Sabathia underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Yet the 36-year old veteran says he will be ready for Spring Training in Tampa in two weeks.
"I won't throw a bullpen before I get down there, but I'll be ready to go right when we get down there," said the lefty. " . . . I feel great right now. My arm feels good. So I'm excited."
Sabathia finished 2016 with a 3.91 ERA, his lowest since earning a 3.38 ERA in 2012. However in his final eight starts of the season, the six-time All-Star posted an impressive 2.37 ERA. Entering the final year of his contract, the veteran pitcher says he would like to play beyond this season.
"I pitched healthy last year and I had good results," Sabathia said. "So if I can stay healthy again this year, I'll look to have a good year and see what happens after that."
While they struggled at times last season, Sabathia believes the same can be said for the rest of the Yankees' rotation.
"If we can stay healthy," said Sabathia, "we've got the arms and the talent in there to be a really good staff."
One of the pitchers who will be competing for a spot in the rotation in Spring Training is RHP Luis Severino. The young right-hander struggled in 11 starts last season, going 0-8 with a 8.50 ERA. However Sabathia believes Severino, who turns 23 in a few weeks, will show significant improvement this season.
"I think he'll bounce back," Sabathia said. " . . . He's working really hard. He had a tough year last year. But that kid has so much talent and so much confidence that I think he'll come back and be fine."
New York's pitchers and catchers will report to Tampa, Florida on Feb. 14.
Sabathia's comments about the upside of the team can be viewed in two ways - typical spring talk from an experienced player trying to pump up the rest of the squad or a veteran player who has been around enough teams to evaluate the talent in the clubhouse. I'll suggest it is the latter. I take Sabathia's prediction for a turnaround from Severino as a good indication of the young right hander's potential in 2017.
Concerning Sabathia's personal health, it is good to hear that he will be ready to get straight to work on the mound once arriving in Tampa in 12 days. Sabathia's comeback season in 2016 was as much about his health as it was the ability to have faith in his transformation as a pitcher. In my view, if Sabathia's balky knee remains stable, he can replicate last season's production because he now has confidence that his pitching repertoire can handle opposing batters.