The Yankees' ace is optimistic, as is Girardi, because the left-hander has never experienced arm troubles during his career and his MRI came back clean.
"I know there's nothing structurally wrong with my arm," Sabathia said. "Everybody pitches with a little pain."
Sabathia said he has mainly felt stiffness in his elbow and had limited range of motion, which convinced him to bring up the issue with the club.
The 32-year-old told head athletic trainer Steve Donohue about the discomfort after he had trouble touching his shoulder with his left hand following his start against the Mariners on Aug. 3.
"I wasn't going to say anything, but my wife was going to call Stevie herself if I didn't say something. She made me go in there and tell him," Sabathia said.
Sabathia had the MRI after facing Seattle, and then the stiffness reemerged during his last outing against the Tigers, but he chose to pitch through it. There was no specific pitch that made his elbow feel worse, and no further tests are scheduled. He will see a doctor on Monday, though, and then figure out the next course of action.
Girardi tried to take a positive out of the situation and believes that Sabathia, who has logged over 230 innings in each of the past five seasons, could benefit down the stretch from some extra rest.
If the pain hadn't crept back, there is a good chance that the Yankees would have let Sabathia continue pitching. But Girardi said elbow injuries of any kind are not something to be taken lightly.
"He wants to pitch. CC would go out there with broken body parts if you let him, that's who he is," Girardi said. "That is what you want out of a player. Cashman, myself, we have to make decisions that we feel are good for, not just tomorrow, but down the road, next month.
"It is not easy putting your ace on the DL, let me tell you."
Girardi said New York's place in the standings played no factor in placing Sabathia on the DL, and that he would have wound up there regardless of the club's record.
"I think he understands why [Cashman] did it, but the competitive nature in CC is that 'I can fight through everything and I'm going to perform at a high level,' and that's what probably has made him so great," Girardi said.
This is the second time this season that Sabathia has landed on the DL, the first coming in late June with a Grade 1 groin strain.
In the five starts he made after, Sabathia went 3-0 with a 3.89 ERA. He struck out 35 batters and walked just six in 34 2/3 innings of work over that stretch.
Sabathia is 12-3 with a 3.56 ERA over 20 starts this season.