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YANKEES FYI

CC Sabathia on the Yankees: 'You come here to get a chance to win a championship'

The 19-game winner, with previous postseason losses as motivation, is ready for Game 1.

October 16, 2009|Kevin Baxter

NEW YORK — Two years ago, CC Sabathia was about as close to the World Series as a player can get without actually being there. Then his Cleveland Indians, one win away from an American League pennant, wound up losing three straight games and the championship to the Boston Red Sox.

"It was tough," said Sabathia, who was beaten twice in the American League Championship Series that year. "I usually am a guy that watches the World Series. I didn't watch it that year. Just because I felt like we probably should have been playing."

And that memory influenced Sabathia's decision to spurn overtures from the Angels and sign a seven-year free-agent contract with the Yankees last December. Of course, that wasn't the only reason he picked New York. By offering him the richest contract in history for a pitcher, the Yankees gave Sabathia 161 million other reasons.

"You come here to get a chance to win a championship," said Sabathia, who is scheduled to start for the Yankees against those same Angels in the ALCS opener tonight at Yankee Stadium. "We are one step closer to that."

Thanks in no small part to Sabathia, who tied for the major league lead with 19 wins and was fourth in the AL with a 3.37 earned-run average. But he lost his two starts against the Angels, who hit .321 against the left-hander, pounding him for 10 runs and 17 hits in 13 1/3 innings.

"They're a good lineup," Sabathia said of the Angels. "You know they have the speed and they got power. They got great balance. But I look to go out and just try to pound the strike zone, command both sides of the plate and see what happens."

Voices of experience

Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada all have played in at least 24 postseason series, winning four World Series rings with the Yankees.

The Angels' most seasoned playoff performer is outfielder Juan Rivera, who has played in nine postseason series. And Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher says that extra experience makes a difference.

"We have so many guys who have been there and so many who have done that," he said. "It's a lot easier to listen to someone who has been there and done that."

And what kind of special insight was Jeter able to pass along?

"He said to just relax," Swisher said.

Roster move

The Yankees have until this morning to set their ALCS roster, but Manager Joe Girardi said Thursday he planned to make only one change from the division series, activating speedy outfielder Freddy Guzman in place of utilityman Eric Hinske.

Guzman, who appeared in 10 games for the Yankees during the regular season, stealing four bases, will be used primarily as a pinch-runner, Girardi said.

"We thought we could use another speed guy in this round," he said. "We've had some success doing those type of things late in games. And in a seven-game series, we felt that it could come up late in games."

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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