Why Sabathia's First Spring Start Tonight Matters

It's St. Patrick's Day today, which for us regular people means a day of drinking green beer and pretending it doesn't suck and eating corned beef for dinner even though that's not an actual Irish tradition.  For the Yankees, it means Opening Day is less than 3 weeks away and Spring Training is getting to the point where it's less about shaking off the rust and getting a feel back and more about getting physically and mentally ready for the start of the regular season and the 6-month grind that follows. With that in mind, it only seems fitting that CC Sabathia makes his first ST start tonight.  He's the last of the projected rotation members to do so, and coming off another disappointing and injury-shortened season in 2014.  In a rotation filled with injury concerns, his is arguably the most concerning based simply on the fact that it's related to 15 years of irreversible wear and tear on a major body joint.  His velocity, command, and weight were topics of discussion last year and in 2013, and they are already starting to be talking points again heading into this year.

Everything about CC right now is questions.  Is his knee going to hold up?  For how long?  How will his added weight affect him?  Can he get back to being an above-average pitcher?  Can he even be an average pitcher?  What can the team reasonably expect from him?  That's why tonight's start matters.  For the first time in almost a calendar year, we'll get to see something that can start to answer some of those questions.  For the first time since his latest surgery, we'll get a true look at what kind of pitcher CC Sabathia is today and what kind of pitcher he might be going forward.

The numbers from tonight's start obviously don't matter.  It's the process that's important.  How do his mechanics look?  What does his leg drive look like?  Can he locate his fastball down in the zone and on the corners?  Does he have a feel for his offspeed stuff?  If most or all of those questions are answered in the positive, then tonight will be a successful next step for the big guy as he tries to work his way back into full game shape.

The rest of the young core of the rotation has looked very good in its early outings.  A healthy, veteran Sabathia added to that mix would go a long way in stabilizing the rotation and possibly positioning it near the top of the American League.  He showed he was still capable of throwing strikes, getting swings and misses, and getting groundball outs in his limited sample size last year.  Now he needs to show that his body can hold up long enough for those skills to translate into victories for his team.  How CC looks tonight will be the first step in determining the eventual answers to all the questions surrounding him.