CC Sabathia
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Yankees activate CC Sabathia from injured list

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The Yankees have activated left-hander CC Sabathia from the 10-day injured list, per a team announcement on Saturday. He’s scheduled to make his first start of the season against the White Sox later this afternoon.

At long last, Sabathia is poised to begin the final season of his multi-decade career in the majors. The 38-year-old southpaw was absent for the team’s first 13 games in 2019 after serving an initial five-game suspension, which he incurred at the tail end of his 2018 campaign when he intentionally struck Rays catcher Jesús Sucre with a pitch to his thigh. He missed additional time on the mound due to his ongoing recovery from a knee surgery and angioplasty, both of which he underwent over the course of the offseason.

While it’s still unclear what kind of results the club can expect from the oft-injured Sabathia in 2019, the veteran pitcher is coming off of a decent run. He worked up to a 9-7 record with a 3.65 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 8.2 SO/9, and 2.4 fWAR across 153 innings in 2018. Whether or not he can replicate those numbers (or improve on them) is another question, but he should help stabilize a rotation that’s currently waiting on Luis Severino to return from a Grade 2 lat strain, with Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and swingman Domingo Germán fleshing out the rest of the group.

In a corresponding move, lefty reliever Stephen Tarpley was optioned to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre to clear a spot on the 25-man roster. Tarpley, 26, appeared in just four games for the Yankees this spring, allowing two runs, two walks, and striking out three of 14 batters faced.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.