CC Sabathia reports to camp at slimmed-down 275 pounds
Loss of cousin at young age inspired Yankees ace pitcher
CC Sabathia got up from his chair in the corner of the New York Yankees' spring training clubhouse and looked almost slim — at least for him.
Sabathia was a shell of his former self on the mound last year, and now his body is a fraction of what it once was. A six-time All-Star used to a hefty frame, he didn't have any superstitions about shedding the weight.
"Being a fat guy is a little different than wearing the same glove," he said Friday.
After the worst of his 13 major league seasons, Sabathia reported at 275 pounds, 40 below his high in 2010. He was shaken when a cousin, Demetrius Davis, died of a heart attack at age 45 in December 2012. Sabathia started thinking about his future.
"I'd lose the weight to be around, to be around my family, be around my kids," he said.
Sabathia dropped most of the pounds last year plus an additional 5 during the off-season. Changing eating habits was key for the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner.
"I just did no carbs and then really worked out, and this off-season I just watched my diet and worked really hard," he said.
Photographs of his appearances during the off-season sparked a flurry of Internet comments. Was his weight loss the equivalent of Samson going for a haircut?
"Yeah, I thought it was hilarious," Sabathia said sarcastically. "I didn't think people cared that much, but whatever."
"Everybody was like mad at me and stuff. That's why when I went on 'First Take' I brought a Cap'n Crunch bag, just to let them know I'm still eating," he added. "Just not as much — not two boxes at a time."
Sabathia's ineffectiveness was a weight on the Yankees last year, when the 33-year-old left-hander went 14-13 and set career highs for ERA (4.78) and home runs allowed (28). He gave up a major league-high 122 runs, 45 on the homers, according to STATS.
Not what a pitcher with a 205-115 career record is accustomed to.
"Nobody wants to go through that again," he said. "It sticks with me a lot — just being disappointed in not being able to help this team win. I feel like if I could have been a little better we might have made the playoffs. I blamed myself for a long time in the off-season."
His fastball velocity dropped from 93.9 mph in 2011 to 92.4 in 2012 to 91.3 last year, according to fangraphs.com. Following elbow surgery in October 2012, his fastball average barely topped 90 in the first two months of last season.
"I think not having a normal off-season because he was rehabbing his elbow was part of it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I can't tell you exactly where his velocity is going to be, but the bottom line for success is not his velocity. Obviously it helps a little, but it's location."
Sabathia went on his diet without supervision, which he now admits probably was the "wrong way." He lacked the stamina he had been used to when he was the Big Man.
"By the fourth, fifth inning I was usually tired," he said.
Sabathia brought up his endurance when he spoke with Yankees head athletic trainer Steve Donahue.
"I felt like 'The Biggest Loser' last year," he said, referring to a reality television show about people dieting. "I lost a lot of weight, but I just wasn't physically ready to go out and play."