NEW YORK (AP) — When CC Sabathia decided during a weekend of drinking in Baltimore that he needed to enter alcohol rehabilitation, there was no turning back.
"I was 100 percent making that decision," the New York Yankees pitcher said Friday. "I'm always upfront and honest about my problems, and this is one of them. So I felt like I needed to make this public and stop hiding from people and kind of make sure I'm doing the right steps to be right."
Sabathia left the team on the final day of the regular season, and on Oct. 5 he checked into Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut. He emerged in public this week with a televised interview broadcast Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America," a pair of sit-downs with New York newspapers and an appearance Friday night at Bowlmor Times Square, where his PitCCh In Foundation hosted its annual fundraiser.
"It just wasn't any one thing. It wasn't any one event," he said to reporters as his guests arrived. "It was just me trying to get ahold of this problem that I have, and I felt like that was the best way to do it, was to check myself into a rehab."
Sabathia first realized three years ago he was an alcoholic, telling ABC he would stay sober for two or three months, then relapse. He entered the clinic a day before the Yankees' 3-0 loss to Houston in the one-game AL wild-card playoff.
"I would hope that fans understood why I did it when I did it — as a man, as a person, as a father, as a husband," he said.
The 35-year-old left-hander was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA this season, slowed by a chronic knee injury. A six-time All-Star and the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner, Sabathia has struggled through three straight subpar seasons, going 23-27 while trying to adjust to decreased velocity and pitching through knee pain.
Sabathia said he did not drink before his outings, and that he got drunk with alcohol from hotel minibars during road trips. He thinks Yankees teammates will help him avoid a relapse.
"If my behavior changes or my attitude changes, they can, you know, kind of call me out and say, 'Hey, what's going on,'" he said. "Instead of before, you know, me hiding or trying to be secretive about it."
Teammates Carlos Beltran and Dellin Betances attended the fundraiser, and Alex Rodriguez was due to arrive later in the evening.
"We were all surprised as a team," Beltran said. "It was something that was really killing him inside, and he needed to address it. There were no options for him."
Beltran had not seen any hints of trouble.
"CC's a very happy man. Fun," he said. "No signs."
Now that he has been released from rehab, Sabathia is looking forward to the start of spring training in mid-February.
"I've already been playing catch. It's been nice weather. It's hard for me to stay away," he said. "Since I've been out already, I mean it's been less than a week, and I've been playing catch pretty much every day."
Sabathia has had a difficult time staying healthy. He had a bone spur removed from his left elbow in October 2012, ended the following season with a strained left hamstring and didn't pitch after mid-May in 2014 because of a right knee injury that required surgery that July.
This year he went on the disabled list Aug. 24 because of right knee inflammation. He returned Sept. 9 with a new knee brace and went 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his last five starts.
"The knee feels great. I did cardio the whole time I was in there, and I haven't had any problem," he said. "This will be the first normal offseason I had in a couple of years, to be able to work and really get the rehabbing right with my knee and get my legs strong to be able to pitch a whole season. My goal next year is to make all my starts and not go on the DL, and I feel like if I can do that, then my numbers will be there if I'm healthy."