Indians’ Sabathia could be DL bound

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CHICAGO (AP) – Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia will likely be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle – not the kind of strong start he and the Indians were hoping for in 2006.

Sabathia was forced from the rain-soaked season opener in Chicago on Sunday night after just 37 pitches. In the third inning, he felt his muscle “grab a little bit” while delivering a pitch to Tadahito Iguchi.

“It was just the one pitch,” Sabathia said. “I don’t know what caused it.”

Sabathia, who has posted double-digit wins the past five years, began 05 on the DL for the first time in his career with a similar injury. He got hurt last year while warming up for his first spring training outing and missed six weeks.

The Indians said the large left-hander underwent an MRI exam Monday in Chicago, hours after the club was beaten 10-4 by the White Sox in a game interrupted for nearly three hours by rain.

The club said a formal announcement on Sabathia will be made before Tuesday’s afternoon game against the White Sox.

In all likelihood, the Indians won’t take any chances with the 290-pound Sabathia and will rest him until his injury is completely healed.

Right-hander Jason Davis, who has made 52 starts in the past four seasons for Cleveland, will probably be called up from Triple-A Buffalo to take Sabathia’s spot in the rotation for now.

Because of three off days in the next two weeks, the Indians don’t need a fifth starter until April 15.

Another option to temporarily replace Sabathia is Fausto Carmona, who was spectacular during training camp. Indians manager Eric Wedge has called the 22-year-old right-hander “our sixth starter.”

Last year, the 25-year-old Sabathia was sidelined for all of spring training and didn’t make his first start until April 22, when he pitched five innings and got a no-decision in a 2-1 win over Minnesota.

The Indians went only 9-14 last April. This year, the club’s focus was to begin better, they may now be forced to do it without their top pitcher.

Sabathia struggled through the first half of last season. He dropped to 4-6 after July and was booed at Jacobs Field by Indians fans. But the 6-foot-7 Sabathia came on strong, going 9-1 in his final 11 starts and carrying Cleveland during its failed push for the AL playoffs.

In his final start, Sabathia pitched eight shutout innings in a 6-0 win over Tampa Bay – Cleveland’s only win in its final seven games when the Indians collapsed and missed making the postseason.

Sabathia has always had to battle his weight, but he has been more committed in the past few off seasons to staying in better shape. He pulled out of pitching for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic so he would be ready for the season, another sign of his resolve to be the Indians’ No. 1 starter.

AP-ES-04-03-06 1733EDT

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