PHOENIX — As he nears the end of what might be a Hall of Fame career, CC Sabathia added to his extensive Cooperstown résumé on Tuesday at Chase Field by recording his 3,000th major league strikeout.
The milestone K came in the bottom of the second inning of the New York Yankees’ series opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The left-handed Sabathia got catcher John Ryan Murphy swinging at a changeup as he struck out the side.
Sabathia is the 17th pitcher in big league history to reach 3,000 strikeouts. He is the third southpaw to join the exclusive club.
“It’s one of those awesome numbers: 3,000 hits, 500 homers, 3,000 strikeouts,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before the game. “That’s what I grew up with in my mind, and I think I got to see Rod Carew hit 3,000, Reggie [Jackson] 500 [homers], Don Sutton 3,000 [strikeouts], 300 wins.
“Those are magical numbers in our sport, and people should take notice when people come up upon them.”
One of Sabathia’s longtime opponents, former Orioles outfielder and current Diamondbacks right fielder Adam Jones, has certainly taken notice. When speaking to ESPN about the pitcher who he said treated him “like a little brother” over the years, Jones recognized multiple aspects of the historic significance of Sabathia’s accomplishment.
“He’s one of the biggest names in the game for the last two decades, and he’s the [third] African American pitcher with at least that many strikeouts,” said Jones, who entered Tuesday with 105 career plate appearances against Sabathia, the most against any pitcher in his 14-year career.
Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Fergie Jenkins are the only other black pitchers to have amassed 3,000 strikeouts in their careers. Like Sabathia, Gibson and Jenkins are part of the 15-man group of “Black Aces,” a collection of the only black pitchers to have won 20 or more games in a season. The group’s founding member, Don Newcombe, who posted the first of his three 20-win seasons in 1951, died earlier this year.
“That’s pretty historic. This is just another sign that [Sabathia] is building his résumé for Cooperstown,” Jones added. “I’ve played against him for 12 years, and I can say that the competition against him is always A1. You always know when you face him that the intensity is going to be high.
“He deserves everything that’s coming his way.”
Sabathia is the first pitcher to cross the 3,000-strikeout threshold since John Smoltz did it for the Atlanta Braves on April 22, 2008. Smoltz struck out the Washington Nationals’ Felipe Lopez swinging in the third inning of that game.
Back in February, two months after an unexpected offseason angioplasty that followed an earlier offseason knee surgery, Sabathia formally announced that he will be retiring at the end of the year. After 19 seasons, the former first-round draft pick will be calling it quits.
Earlier this season, Sabathia admitted that he has been thinking about getting his 3,000th strikeout since spring training. Because he came into the year just 11 strikeouts shy of the milestone, he found it difficult to avoid thinking about it.
“Just ready to get it over with,” he said two starts ago.
Of the pitchers to have previously reached 3,000 strikeouts, all but two have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling remain outside it.
When the Yankees visited San Francisco on Friday, Sabathia was treated to a two-minute, between-innings montage on the Oracle Park video board recognizing his accomplishments as a pitcher. His upcoming 3,000th strikeout was mentioned.
Fittingly, the Giants were the first team to recognize Sabathia, a native of neighboring Vallejo, California, during a Yankees road trip this season. Asked about that video, Sabathia simply smiled and said seeing it was “cool.”
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