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Brewers Asking Too Much of CC

In today's Game 2, CC Sabathia once again will be pitching on short rest.
In today's Game 2, CC Sabathia once again will be pitching on short rest. (By Darren Hauck -- Getty Images)

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By Thomas Boswell
Thursday, October 2, 2008

PHILADELPHIA

Milwaukee's CC Sabathia, who will start Game 2 of the division series against Philadelphia on Thursday, is either the most unselfish pitcher in baseball or the most foolhardy.

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And his Brewers, who have essentially rented him for half a season before he becomes a $140 million free agent, are either exploiting Sabathia or they're simply following his wishes.

As is often annoyingly the case, all of the above is true.

On Thursday, the Brew Crew, which lost Game 1 Wednesday, 3-1, to Cole Hamels and the Phillies, will send its 6-foot-7, 290-pound southpaw to the mound on just three days' rest for the fourth straight time. Even though he already led the majors in innings this season with 253, the most of his career. Even though, if the Brewers make the World Series, he might hit 300 innings.

Who was the last star pitcher to work on short rest so many times in a row? Nobody here can remember. Was it back when Milwaukee last made the playoffs, in '82, in another era? Quite likely. When did a player on the cusp of a gigantic payoff -- probably the biggest contract for a pitcher in history -- ever push himself to the fore, and perhaps jeopardize his future at its very peak, to chase an improbable, long-shot chase for a world title? Try never.

All the normal, sensible people in Sabathia's life, including his family and his agent, have tried to talk sense to him. He's not listening. "I think everybody who knows me and that's close to me knows how competitive I am," he said on Wednesday. "If I'm healthy enough and I feel fine enough to pitch, they're not going to tell me not to, because I'm not going to listen to it.

"We're going to end up in an argument."

The Brewers, who came to Sabathia to suggest the short-rest idea -- not the other way around -- certainly have their reasons for loving a beyond-the-call-of-duty pitcher.

Their other top starter, Ben Sheets, is hurt and out for this series. So, if this series goes five games, they can jam Sabathia into two starts against the powerful Phils. Also, CC seems to be thriving. In his past two starts, he has allowed one earned run on eight hits in 16 innings with three walks and 18 strikeouts. Is his workload actually making his superb control even sharper?

Still, the Brewers know the whole sport is watching with hard, narrowed eyes. Just because Sabathia is enormous doesn't mean his 28-year-old shoulder and elbow are indestructible.

"We know people will be after us and say it's unfair," Milwaukee General Manager Doug Melvin said. "CC had to look me in the eye and tell me he wanted to do this."


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