CLEVELAND (AP) – Indians ace C.C. Sabathia had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Friday, two days after he shut out the Chicago White Sox for eight innings in his final start this season.

Torn cartilage was removed in the 35-minute procedure at Cleveland Clinic. The Indians expect the 26-year-old left-hander to begin his usual offseason throwing program in December and be 100 percent when spring training opens in Florida in February.

Sabathia first felt discomfort in his knee following an August start against Tampa Bay. He was diagnosed with torn cartilage, but it was not deemed serious enough to sideline him.

Trainer Lonnie Soloff said Sabathia was closely monitored over the final 1 months and there was “never a thought” of shutting him down for the rest of the season.

“When you hear of a guy having an end-of-year cleanout, that is all that this was,” Soloff said.

Sabathia certainly didn’t seem bothered by knee trouble on the mound. He went 12-11 with a career-best 3.22 ERA in 28 starts.

“It was manageable and he managed it,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Obviously, it didn’t affect his performance. He’s a tough guy. He’s so strong and worked so hard to get where he’s at and he’s a great athlete – all reasons that allowed him to pitch through it.”

Entering the final weekend of 2006, Sabathia leads the majors with six complete games. He campaigned hard for a seventh one against the White Sox before being pulled by Wedge after throwing 121 pitches.

Despite missing the first month of the season with an abdominal strain, Sabathia pitched 192 2-3 innings and recorded a career-high 172 strikeouts. His 44 walks were his fewest since breaking into the big leagues in 2000.

Sabathia led the AL complete games, road ERA and tied teammates Jeremy Sowers and Jake Westbrook along with the John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels for the league lead with two shutouts.

“Wins and losses don’t always tell the true tale with a starting pitcher,” Wedge said. “C.C. really solidified himself as a No. 1 pitcher this year. He showed leadership qualities.”

Sabathia is 81-56 in six seasons with Cleveland, which selected him in the first round in 1998. Statistically, his best season was his rookie year in 2001 when he went 17-5. He’s reached double-figure wins every season.

AP-ES-09-29-06 1736EDT

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