CC Sabathia’s major league career is over.
The 39-year-old left-hander was dropped from the Yankees’ AL Championship Series roster on Friday, a day after he dislocated a joint in his pitching shoulder during the eighth inning of New York’s Game 4 loss to Houston.
“I think it’s just kind of fitting: I threw until I couldn’t anymore,” Sabathia said, his arm in a sling, his Yankees cap on backward, during a news conference at Yankee Stadium.
He recounted a conversation he had with his wife.
“I told Amber last night that this was the best way for it to end for me because of the way I’ve been feeling, loving the bullpen, jogging out, feeling pretty good. I feel like about July of next year I’ll be like, I think I can pitch,” he said.
Sabathia was replaced on the roster by right-hander Ben Heller. New York trailed 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, and even if the Yankees advanced Sabathia would not be eligible to return to the active roster. He said he will have an MRI to determine whether he needs surgery.
A six-time All-Star and the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland, Sabathia finished with a 251-161 regular-season record with 3,093 strikeouts. He announced before the season that this was going to be his last year, and he made four trips to the injured list caused by his balky right knee.
Sabathia said he was hurt on the pitch that induced Aledmys Díaz to pop up.
“When I released the ball, my shoulder kind of went with it,” Sabathia said. “I was in a pretty good amount of pain last night and today. Waking up, I didn’t sleep that good. I don’t know what I did but it’s pretty sore and the pain has been pretty intense since that pitch.”
He remained in for three more pitches to George Springer, walked off the mound toward second, spoke with head athletic trainer Steve Donahue and tried a warmup toss, hoping somehow to push through, but he had to leave.
Even Springer and Houston ace Gerrit Cole joined in the fans’ applause as Sabathia limped off to a standing ovation.
“I think that’s what got me more emotional than actual injury, just hearing the fans and the way that they were cheering me,” he said. “Makes me feel good. Makes me feel like I made the right choice 11 years ago.”
When he reached the dugout, his face contorted, Sabathia took four steps down toward the clubhouse, then sat near the bottom, his back to the field, as Donahue tried to console him.
“Every single time he went out there, you had to rip the ball or his jersey off to get him off that mound,” Yankees slugger Aaron Judge said. “He got everything out of that arm. That’s a warrior right there.”
Teammates felt for him.
“It stinks,” reliever Zack Britton said. “It’s heartbreaking to watch him leave the field like that. I know how much pain he was in.”
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