By Barry Millman
The education of CC Sabathia, backend rotation pitcher, continues Friday night at Fenway with another lesson in how to pitch without the stuff that once made him an ace. And in a young season that has already been filled with lessons in humility, the first day of May may bring his most humbling yet.
The Boston ballyard, to put it in cinematic terms, has been like a Bates Motel for the big guy throughout his career. Whenever he checks in, a bloodbath is almost sure to follow.
Of the 18 major league ballparks not named Yankee Stadium where he's made at least three starts as the visiting pitcher in his 15-year career, there's been virtually no more dangerous place for him to try to throw a baseball past a batter than Fenway.
Forget about his career .249 batting average against and .690 OPS. Over 86.2 innings spread over 14 starts between the shadows of the Green Monster and Pesky's Pole, CC has brightened the backs of Boston baseball cards to the tune of a .304 BAA and .860 OPS.
Coming into tonight's game lugging a career worst 5.96 ERA and facing a Boston lineup that's produced MLB's 3rd-most runs, it's not hard to picture those career numbers taking a further beating unless manager Joe Girardi releases the bullpen dogs earlier than has been his habit to date with CC.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the bullpen has had a day off and is largely rested and ready to put out any dumpster fires CC ignites -- with the above caveat regarding Joe's willingness to pick up the phone and call them in.
More good news: Despite Fenway being so unfriendly to CC, he sports a serviceable 5-5 record there thanks to the park being friendly to Yankees hitters at least half the time.
Still more good news is that Red Sox starter Justin Masterson, who is 2-0 through four starts and coming off a respectable seven-inning, three-run outing, gave up seven hits in that start and struggles with his command. He carries a weighty 5.16 ERA of his own and averages barely five-innings per start.
Couple that with a Boston bullpen that is second in MLB with four blown saves in eight opportunities to its credit already and dragging an 18th-ranked 4.17 ERA into tonight's game, and it's pretty clear the Yankees will be best served if both starting pitchers don't go deep in this one.
You can email Barry Millman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.