On Friday night, the southpaw will take the ball for the Yankees in the opener of a three-game set in Cleveland, a city Sabathia called home for at least part of the first eight years of his big league career. The Bronx Bombers will be banking on Sabathia to snap their three-game skid, which has cut their lead over the second-place Rays in the American League East to three games.
On Tuesday, Sabathia said he went through a full 38-pitch session without any trouble from his tender left elbow.
"It's a big relief that I can go out and throw all my pitches and not be hindered by anything, or feel like I can't throw [a] pitch because it might hurt," Sabathia said. "I have none of that, and today just confirmed that. I feel good about going out there on Friday."
During his tenure in Cleveland, Sabathia experienced a pair of trips to the postseason as well as several years of rebuilding. He can relate to the current crop of Indians, who are riding an eight-game losing streak after enduring an 11-game skid earlier in the month.
"You heard us talk for the first couple of months," Tribe manager Manny Acta said. "We said a bunch of times that we haven't played our best baseball, because we were winning ballgames earlier in the year and still we were next to last in pitching and leading the league in walks. We figured, 'Hey, we're getting away with it right now and things are going to get better. That's when we're going to take off.'
"Unfortunately, things didn't get better. The run differential at some point catches up with you, and it did, except that it was all at once, in one month. You can lose four and win two and lose three, win two and it makes it a little easier to swallow. But when you go through two losing streaks like we have in one month, it's pretty hard to take."
Against Sabathia, the Indians will turn to righty Corey Kluber, who's 0-2 with a 6.27 ERA in four starts this season.
Yankees: Nova goes on disabled list
Sabathia's return was expected to bring the Yankees' rotation closer to full strength. Instead, Ivan Nova flew back to New York to undergo tests on his right shoulder, which stiffened up near the end of his start on Tuesday, and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday.
For now, David Phelps will remain in the Yankees' rotation. Sabathia will take Nova's spot.
The Yankees are still without lefty Andy Pettitte, who sustained a fractured left fibula after being struck by a line drive from Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman the last time the two clubs squared off, in late June. On Wednesday, Pettitte tossed 55 pitches in a session on flat ground at U.S. Cellular Field.
"I feel good," Pettitte said. "I'm trying to draw a fine line here, because obviously I'm not completely healed or they would tell me I could get on a mound right now, I guess. There's no sense even trying to explain it. I wish I could tell you that I could go out there and run sprints and run around and get on a mound right this second, but I'm definitely not quite there yet."
Shortstop Derek Jeter homered for the third straight game in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the White Sox. He has homered in four consecutive road games for the first time in his career.
Right fielder Nick Swisher isn't worried about the Yankees' dwindling division lead.
"Maybe somebody else is, but not me, man," Swisher said. "I know the talent we have in here, and I know what we're capable of doing. It's just not coming out right now. That off-day for us [on Thursday] couldn't come at a better time. Twenty [games] in a row for us -- we need a little break, get our minds right back and get ready for a killer series in Cleveland."
Indians: Kipnis starting to emerge from slump
Second baseman Jason Kipnis went 5-for-14 with a home run in the Tribe's series against Seattle. In his previous 48 contests, he had batted just .207 with no homers.
"It's good to see that," Acta said. "We've got over a month of baseball to play, and this kid has been good for us. He has been struggling of late, but we want to make sure that he finishes strong and ends on a high note."
Why has Ubaldo Jimenez already surrendered 23 home runs this season, six more than he has in any season of his career?
"It's crazy," the right-hander said. "I don't know what it is. I guess it's just that every time I fall behind in the count, I try to throw a fastball in there and they're hacking hard and getting it out of the park."
Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
The Yankees are 27-12 against the Indians since 2007. They are 48-28 all time at Progressive Field, the best winning percentage for any AL team at the ballpark.