MLB Baseball

Sabathia happy to have Chapman back in Yankees bullpen

(AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

By RONALD BLUM

AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) Given he never pitched into the ninth inning this year, CC Sabathia is happy the New York Yankees brought back Aroldis Chapman.

"It's exciting when he comes in. It just lights up the Stadium," Sabathia said Wednesday at the Yankees' holiday food drive.

New York traded Chapman to the Chicago Cubs in July for prospects, including touted 20-year-old shortstop Gleyber Torres and pitcher Adam Warren.

After helping the Cubs win their first World Series title since 1908, Chapman became a free agent and agreed last week to an $86 million, five-year contract with the Yankees, a deal that has not yet been finalized.

The Yankees also dealt Andrew Miller to Cleveland, leaving Dellin Betances as the remaining reliever from their late-inning triad.

Now Chapman and Betances will form a duo, with Tyler Clippard, Tommy Layne and Chasen Shreve among a large group competing for sixth- and seventh-inning mound time.

"I think with the guys that we have now, you have that same kind of relief where you can go out and pitch a good game and feel like the game's shut down once you get to those guys," Sabathia said.

Sabathia took an overnight flight from Portland, Oregon, after attending an NBA game with Derek Jeter. Sabathia has been at Yankee Stadium several times each week following arthroscopic surgery Oct. 11 on his right knee.

"I'm trying to get my mobility back and make sure that I'm ready to go come spring training," he said.

A 36-year-old left-hander, Sabathia pitched with a brace on the knee this year and went 9-12 with a 3.91 ERA, his lowest ERA since 2012. He will make $25 million next year, the final season of his contract.

He figures to slot in second or third in a rotation that includes Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, who also can become a free agent after next season.

Luis Severino, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa and Chad Green figure to compete for the final two starting berths.

"We'll see how it shakes out and who ends up in the bullpen. But it's exciting to have this kind of talent," Sabathia said.

Severino was 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts over the final two months in 2015. The 22-year-old right-hander went 3-8 with a 5.83 ERA this year in 11 starts and 10 relief appearances, making only four big league starts after mid-May.

"I felt like we kind of put some expectations on him, some heavy ones, and things just kind of snowballed on him," Sabathia said. "Obviously, him going back down and coming back up and pitching well out of the bullpen helped him confidence-wise."

New York is going with youth, planning to start Gary Sanchez at catcher, either Greg Bird or Tyler Austin at first, and Aaron Judge or Aaron Hicks in right.

"It is a team in transition," Sabathia said. "Watching all the young kids come up and do what they did last year was fun, and hopefully they can keep it going and carry us hopefully to the playoffs this year."

Updated December 14, 2016

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