NEWS

Rumors sounds like reality: Sabathia reportedly headed for Milwaukee

Josh Weir

C.C. Sabathia got dressed at his locker early Sunday, preparing for pre-game activities as a clubhouse TV played ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”

The show’s tease — “The latest on C.C. Sabathia trade rumors” — blared for all to hear.

Sabathia shook his head and turned back to his locker. A smattering of Indians stood and watched as John Kruk and Steve Phillips analyzed the likely departure of the American League’s reigning Cy Young winner from Cleveland.

By Sunday night, the rumors sounded like reality.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel web site and ESPN.com, Brewers team sources said the Indians and Brewers have agreed on a trade that sends Sabathia to Milwaukee for a package of prospects, most notably power-hitting minor leaguer Matt LaPorta.

Pending paperwork being filled out and physicals being passed, Sabathia could be starting for the Brewers when they face Colorado at home Tuesday. That was the day Sabathia was supposed to start to the Indians in Detroit.

“I’m good, excited. It’s weird leaving these guys,” wrote Sabathia in a text message to ESPN.com after word of the trade leaked out.

Indians GM Mark Shapiro would not confirm the trade.

“It is definitely not a done deal,” Shapiro told MLB.com. “I won’t comment on what point it’s at or how far along (it is).”

The 23-year-old LaPorta is hitting .288 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs in 84 games for Double-A Huntsville. Other possible players in the deal include Brewers’ 2007 minor league player of the year Taylor Green, a third baseman.

The Indians, 14 games under .500 and 14 games back in the Central Division this season after winning 96 games and being one game from the World Series last year, aren’t just losing a Cy Young winner. They’re losing one of their own, a kid they drafted as a teenager and groomed to be their ace.

The 27-year-old Sabathia (6-8, 3.83 ERA), who turned down a $72 million, four-year extension in Spring Training, will be a free agent after the season.

The Indians have done this before. They traded Bartolo Colon in 2002. They got back Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore — both named All-Stars on Sunday — along with Brandon Phillips, who was later shipped to Cincinnati.

The Sabathia deal isn’t likely to match that haul, but the Brewers prospects do come highly regarded.

The mindsets of Indians players seem to be somewhere between punch-drunk and emasculated. Veteran closer Joe Borowski was designated for assignment Friday as the Indians set their focus on 2009.

The Tribe flew home Sunday night from Minnesota and will spend Monday’s off-day in Cleveland.

“That’s what they need,” Cleveland Manager Eric Wedge said. “Mentally they need to get away from it, give themselves a break. Obviously it’s been a very tough road trip. We’ve got a lot going on right now.”

Reach Canton Repository sports writer Josh Weir at (330) 580-8426 or e-mail: josh.weir@cantonrep.com