|Sabathia on Cleveland: "This has been my second home"|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 24 January 2008 16:21|
And the Cleveland Indians can't conceive seeing him go.
Sabathia, the AL's reigning Cy Young winner back in town Thursday night to receive another award, said he's hoping his agents and the ballclub can finalize a multiyear contract to keep him in Cleveland.
``It would definitely be tough (to leave),'' Sabathia said. ``I was just telling Amber (his wife) when we touched down yesterday that it felt like home. This has been my second home. Hopefully, we can get something done.''
The Indians were unable to finalize a deal before last season. They recently offered a long-term contract to the left-hander, who is eligible for free agency following the 2008 season.
General manager Mark Shapiro would prefer having talks with Sabathia wrapped up by the start of training camp. Cleveland's pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Winter Haven, Fla., on Feb. 14.
However, Shapiro said the Indians would be willing to extend negotiations with Sabathia as long as necessary.
``We're not ever going to set a time limit on a guy like C.C.,'' Shapiro said. ``There will probably be some junctures in time that we say we're going to be active or not active in talking but we're not going to close the door all the way up through free agency.
``He's too special of a person and too special of a talent.''
Although he's weighing a decision that will affect him - and the Indians - for years to come, Sabathia said he's enjoying the experience.
``It's not a tough time. It's a great time,'' he said with a laugh before attending the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. ``How could this be a tough time? I know I've got some important decisions to make coming up.''
For now, Sabathia said he's letting his agents handle the talks.
``I'm just letting them hammer it out. Maybe in spring training I'll get to sit down with everybody. Right now, I've got nothing to do with it. I'm just letting Mark and my agents deal with it.''
Sabathia was asked if he was hopeful a deal could be in place by spring training.
``Right now, they're trying to get something done,'' he said. ``I'm just letting them hammer it out and hopefully we can get close.''
The 27-year-old Sabathia had a breakout season in 2007.
He set career highs in wins (19), starts (34), ERA (3.21) and strikeouts (209). Sabathia also led the majors with 241 innings pitched, the first Indians pitcher to do so since Bob Feller in 1947.
Sabathia was rewarded by becoming the first Cleveland pitcher to win the Cy Young since Gaylord Perry in 1972.
Sabathia, who will pick up his Cy Young Award this weekend in New York, said his life hasn't changed much since being honored. He's spent the last two months back in Vallejo, Calif., his hometown.
``It's been the same,'' he said. ``I've been staying in the house a lot. It hasn't really been too bad. When I go back home people kind of leave me alone and let me do my thing.''
The down time has given Sabathia time to reflect on his big season, and a postseason that wasn't so kind.
After winning one game against the New York Yankees in the AL playoffs, he lost twice in the ALCS to Boston as the Red Sox overcame a 3-1 deficit, eliminated the Indians and went on to win the World Series.
Cleveland was so close and Sabathia, a first-round draft pick by the Indians in 1998, said he'll factor that into his decision to stay.
``Last year was another sign that we're headed in the right direction,'' he said. ``We're a young team that's definitely capable of winning a championship, so I'm here right in the middle of it and of course that plays a part in my decision.''
The Indians have been down this path with high-profile free agents before, and each time the result hasn't been good. Cleveland went outside its payroll-comfort level to try and sign both Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome, who chose to sign for bigger money elsewhere.
Sabathia, who will make a base salary of $11 million next year, could be in line to make close to $20 million per year.