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Sabathia not Worthy of Opening Day Start

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The question has been asked a few times this week during spring training games and on sports talk radio.

Who is going to start on Opening Day for the New York Yankees?

As many have noted, CC Sabathia is an obvious and possible choice for manager Joe Girardi. The big lefty, now 34 years old, has pitched the first game of the season for the Bombers for the last six years. That streak of course dates back to 2009, Sabathia’s first season in pinstripes after signing on with the Yankees as a free agent the previous offseason.

Back then, Sabathia was the undisputed ace on the team. Naturally, the ace gets the Opening Day nod. He would win 59 games in his first three years in New York and then another 15 in 2012. However, Sabathia’s game has taken a major hit ever since. His 2013 and 2014 campaigns were disastrous, as he had a combined 4.87 ERA, lost several ticks on his fastball and battled serious knee injuries in 2014.

Not exactly what you want from your ace, especially when he is making $23 million a year.

The point here is not to say that Sabathia cannot return to being a productive pitcher for the Yankees, though at this point New York is just hoping he can stay healthy. Instead, the idea is to point out that Sabathia should lose his Opening Day privileges for a multitude of reasons, the first of which being that he simply has not produced over the past two years.

Then there is also the fact that there are starters in this rotation that are flat-out better than Sabathia now. Masahiro Tanaka looked like one of the best pitchers in baseball as a rookie last year before partially tearing his ulnar collateral ligament. The Japanese hurler’s strong start to the spring would back that claim up.

Michael Pineda, another guy with health issues, is clearly the superior pitcher to Sabathia at this point as well. The 26-year-old was electric last year, posting a 1.89 ERA in a limited 13-start season interrupted by a pine tar suspension and injuries. He is all better now and, like Tanaka, dominating the spring competition.

Whoever Girardi wants to go with on Opening Day, the facts are clear; at this point in their careers, Tanaka and Pineda are more deserving than Sabathia. Sometimes old habits just have to die hard.

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