NEW YORK -- Having come up through the Indians' Minor League system with CC Sabathia and caught the vast majority of his 237 starts with the Indians, Victor Martinez had a good idea what pitches might be coming Thursday. But he had no idea how to describe what it was like to see those pitches coming from the batter's box. "For me, it was kind of hard, looking up to see CC in a different uniform," Martinez said. "I can't even find the words to describe it."
The Indians had known this day was coming for months. The minute Sabathia signed a seven-year, $161 million contract with the Yankees in December, it was speculated that he would probably start the Yankee Stadium opener against the club that drafted him, groomed him, watched him grow into a Cy Young Award winner and then traded him to the Brewers for prospects last summer. Still, the actual experience of facing Sabathia was no less strange. "It's different," said Grady Sizemore, who led the game off with a groundout to first. "It's tough. I've been a teammate and friend of him for so long. It was tough to see him on the other side of the ball. I was a little uncomfortable that first at-bat." The Indians never truly got comfortable against Sabathia, but they didn't let him settle into a groove either. He limited them to a run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings, but he needed 122 pitches to do so. Cleveland drew five walks off Sabathia to help force him out of the game and get to New York's bullpen, and the Tribe took the game over with a nine-run seventh. "It was a little frustrating getting such a high pitch count," Sabathia said. "I could have probably made some better pitches with two strikes. They had some tough at-bats, but I just wasn't making pitches with two strikes -- good quality pitches -- to get them out." Sabathia will probably get a second chance to make those pitches when the Yankees come to Cleveland in May. Maybe then Martinez and his mates won't be as emotionally affected by seeing Sabathia in pinstripes. "I'll always wish CC the best," Martinez said, "wherever he's at."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.