AT 26 THE Indians'
ace is beginning his seventh big league season (career record: 81--56) and is a
major reason SI picked Cleveland to win the AL Central. One of only two
prominent African-American starting pitchers in the majors—the Marlins'
Dontrelle Willis is the other—Sabathia has called the scarcity of black major
leaguers "a crisis." Personally, though, times are good. Set to earn
$8.75 million this year, the Vallejo, Calif., native is married to his high
school sweetheart, has two kids and he's getting giddy: The season opener is
just days away.
I had surgery on my right knee, and I started two-a-day workouts in December. I
would go from 9:30 to 11:30 and from 2:30 to 4:30. Lift, run, upper body. I
lost 10, 15 pounds. This is going to be my third time pitching Opening Day, and
it's exciting. Being able to set the tone for the team is big.
On the Indians'
It takes stress off. It doesn't change what you do, but you don't feel like
I've got to get this out, finish the inning. You stick to your strategy, and
when you're done, you've got the horses behind you. You feel at ease coming out
of a game.
On his full name,
My dad was the first, I'm a junior, and my son is the third. I call him Lil' C.
My dad passed away in December '03, and I wear a black bracelet on my wrist to
remember him. I haven't taken it off in three years.
On his mom,
She used to put on full catcher's gear to catch me. I wouldn't do it unless she
had on all the gear. I'd pitch to her for half an hour every day after school.
She was a great athlete—she played fast-pitch softball in a league. We did that
until I was about 12, and I started throwing too hard for her. One day I hit
her right on the palm, and that was it. She threw her glove down and walked
On his social life
as a teenager
My mom worked nights as a telephone operator at Travis Air Force Base. She'd
leave at 11 p.m., come back at eight a.m.—perfect party hours. We'd have big
parties until 7:30 then clean up. She never caught us.
On people who tell
him, at 290 pounds, to lose weight
What do you want me to do? I'm a big guy [6'7"]. I'm an only child, but my
cousins, my uncles, everybody's huge, 6'5", 6'6", 250. My grandfather
was nearly 6'9". I work my ass off every day, so whoever wants to criticize
me, tell them to come work out with me one day and see if they can hang.
My wife [Amber] makes me a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich on white bread
before every home start. That's my only superstition—it's been working.
On his kids
C.C. is three, my daughter Jaden is one. C.C. can hit a ball to the infield
dirt. He's huge for his age, 3 1/2 feet, 45 pounds. When he was 1 1/2, people
were like, Man, why does he still have a pacifier? And I'm like, He's still a
Love it. Off-season I take BP a few times a week with my high school coach. I
try to get Eric [Wedge, Cleveland's manager] to put me in to pinch-hit; he'll
just laugh. I love interleague. I hit a bomb against Cincinnati—my best
baseball moment. I tried to put my head down and look humble, but once I
rounded third and looked in the dugout, I couldn't stop cheesin'.