Midseason-like May gets C.C. noticed
Left-hander's 5-1 mark helps him earn AL Pitcher of Month nod
Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia's May looked like a midseason stretch, as the big left-hander came off the disabled list, rattled off a 5-1 record and was named the American League Pitcher of the Month.
Sabathia started six games in May, after spending most of April on the disabled list with an abdominal strain he suffered in an Opening Day start against the White Sox. The hurler showed no signs of rust upon his return, working through May with an ERA of 1.20.
For Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, Sabathia's performance is all he could have asked for.
"He's pitched as good as you can ask a starting pitcher to pitch since coming off the DL," said manager Eric Wedge after Sabathia's May 24 win over Minnesota. "He's been very consistent with his control of the flow of the game."
Sabathia credited his month-long success to his evolution from a thrower to a pitcher and his ability to throw a bevy of pitches over the plate.
"I'm throwing strikes," Sabathia said. "That's the key for anybody, is to be able to throw strikes with all your pitches at any time."
Minnesota center fielder Tori Hunter had a first-hand look at Sabathia's accuracy and agreed after the right-hander threw 102 pitches over nine innings against the Twins -- 76 of them for strikes.
"C.C.'s a pitcher right now," said Minnesota center fielder Torii Hunter "He's keeping guys off balance, and with the stuff he has, he can beat anybody."
Sabathia didn't need long after coming off of the DL to build up his stamina, going at least eight innings four times in his six May starts, and throwing more than 100 pitches in five of the six. The right-hander also had consecutive complete games to his credit, against Pittsburgh on May 19 and then again five days later against Minnesota on May 24.
Against Pittsburg, Sabathia's performance (one run allowed on three hits over nine innings) left Pirates manager Jim Tracy giving the left-hander nothing but praise.
"That's the best game we've had pitched against us this year," Tracy said. "By far. The guy had four pitches, threw them all for strikes. He threw fastballs to both sides of the plate, had a good breaking ball, terrific changeup. His ball/strike ratio was off the charts."
But, with his early-season stint on the disabled list as a reminder, Sabathia knows that anything can happen the rest of the way.
"I've still got a lot of pitching to do," said Sabathia, the winningest active pitcher in the Majors under the age of 26. "Hopefully I can put together a good season."
Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir finished second in the voting. Kazmir was 4-1 with a 1.91 ERA during May for the Devil Rays.
Michael Walsh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.