TAMPA, Fla. -- CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett were linked from the very beginning. While they tried on their first pinstripes, the sign board atop the old Yankee Stadium shot one of its last messages toward the Major Deegan Expressway: "LET'S PLAY TWO -- CC & A.J."
And now only Sabathia remains. That news conference, one of the last events at the old Stadium, led to a 2009 World Series win at the new palace. But the excitement faded after two disappointing follow-up years from Burnett.
As Yankees pitchers and catchers reported on Sunday, Burnett was instead taking his physical to become a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Sabathia glanced toward the area where Burnett's locker used to be.
"It's tough. We came into this thing together, and it's just tough to see him go," Sabathia said. "But I think it's the best for him, and we just move on. It's part of the game, he's been around a long time, and I think he understands. A change of scenery; sometimes that does well for guys, and hopefully that can do well for him."
On Sunday, the Yankees sent Burnett to the Pirates in exchange for two Minor Leaguers, right-handed reliever Diego Moreno, 25, and outfielder Exicardo Cayones, 20.
The Pirates will pay $13 million of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's contract, a deal that Burnett officially inked while sitting next to Sabathia, pressing pen to paper on George M. Steinbrenner's old desk in the Bronx.
Sabathia said that he reached out to Burnett with a text message this week, but they haven't yet spoken about the trade.
"Our families got really close; our kids, our wives, so it'll be tough," Sabathia said. "But like I said, hopefully he stays healthy, and it works out for the best for him."