NEW YORK (NYT) - New York Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia said on Monday, the day before the team's first playoff game since 2012 that he would check into a rehabilitation centre for treatment of alcohol addiction.
"I love baseball and I love my teammates like brothers, and I am also fully aware that I am leaving at a time when we should all be coming together for one last push toward the World Series," he said in a statement released by the team.
"It hurts me deeply to do this now, but I owe it to myself and to my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease, and I want to be a better man, father and player."
He concluded, "I am looking forward to being out on the field with my team next season playing the game that brings me so much happiness."
The Yankees will take on the Houston Astros on Tuesday night in New York in the American League wild-card game. The winner of that game will advance to a division series against the Kansas City Royals.
Sabathia, 35, struggled this season, going 6-10 with an 4.73 ERA, but he had recently switched to a new brace for his troublesome right knee and was pitching far more effectively, to the point where the Yankees were looking at him to be a key contributor in any extended playoff run.
General Manager Brian Cashman, speaking to reporters at Yankee Stadium on Monday, said that Sabathia called him Sunday afternoon to inform him of his need to seek treatment immediately and that the Yankees were supportive of his decision.
"I was not expecting this call and not expecting this press conference today,'' Cashman said. "C.C. demonstrated a great deal of courage to try and tackle this problem,'' Cashman added.
"Time and place have no bearing. There is something here that needs to be taken care of and I applaud him for stepping up and doing everything necessary for himself as he moves forward.''
"We'll see him another day,'' Cashman said.
There have been several incidents involving Sabathia's behaviour that attracted attention over the last year.
In December, he became upset at Newark Liberty International Airport and got into a dispute with airline staff members. In June, he was ejected from a game for the first time since 2006 for arguing balls and strikes. In August, he was involved in a confrontation outside a nightclub in Toronto that led to a brawl, although he was not involved in any fighting.
On Thursday, Sabathia pitched five innings and gave up just one run as the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox, 4-1, and clinched a wild-card berth. It turned out to be the Yankees' only victory in the final seven games of the regular season.
The 6-foot-7 (two-metre-tall) Sabathia has battled weight problems over the years but has been an effective pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, the Milwaukee Brewers and, since 2009, the Yankees.
He joined the Yankees on a seven-year, US$160 million contract. In his first season in New York, in 2009, he was 19-8 and helped lead the team to its 27th championship.
In October 2011, Sabathia agreed to a one-year extension of his contract, which was to be worth US$25 million in 2016 with a vesting option in 2017 for another US$25 million.