CC tries to lend a hand when he shouldn’t
Roger Clemens did it frequently, which used to make his managers and pitching coaches cringe. The Rocket had a nasty habit of reaching with his bare, pitching hand for hard-hit balls back to the mound. Despite urgings to resist, Clemens found it difficult to refrain from trying to make a fielding play against a batted ball he felt could do damage.
It is an instinctive move, of course, and CC Sabathia was guilty of the same thing in the second inning Wednesday night at Baltimore. It proved costly, although not from a physical standpoint, which is the chief reason managers and pitching coaches caution against such a maneuver. They do not want pitchers to damage their hands fielding balls without the protection of a glove.
Sabathia was able to continue pitching after he tied to make a bare-handed play on a chopper by the Orioles’ Ronny Paulino, so the physical effect was nothing more than some stinging fingers. More damaging to the Yankees was that CC’s ill-advised move may have cost them a chance to turn a double play and get out of the inning unscathed.
Paulino was batting with one out and runners on first and second. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was shading the right-handed hitting Paulino toward second base and was in position to make a play if Sabathia had not touched the ball and slowed it up to the point that the Yankees could not make a play at all as the Orioles loaded the bases.
Sabathia recovered momentarily to strike out Wilson Betemit on a slider in the dirt before he went to a full count against Robert Andino, who singled to center for two runs that tied the score. The Yankees had staked CC to a 2-0 lead in the first on Curtis Granderson’s first home run this year that also scored Derek Jeter, who led off with a double, marking the fifth time in the first six games that he opened the game with a hit.
Also by losing the out(s) he might have gotten on the Paulino ball, Sabathia was forced to throw more pitches that shot his count up to 53. On a night after the Yankees used six relievers to pitch 7 1/3 innings in a 12-inning victory, manager Joe Girardi had a thin bullpen with starter Phil Hughes in place for use on his throw day if needed.
Moral of the story: keep your hands to your sides, CC.