As CC Sabathia prepares to take the ball for his fifth Opening Day start with the Yankees, the ace left-hander can't help but feel that his time in pinstripes is flying by.

It is difficult for Sabathia to believe that the 2009 season, his first in pinstripes, is now so far in the rearview mirror. But the impact of having Sabathia in the clubhouse has changed the Yankees for the better.

"I think I'm the same as I was when I came in here," Sabathia said. "It's been definitely fun. I've enjoyed my time here, being in this organization and being part of the Yankees family, but I think I'm the same."

Sabathia has loomed large, literally and figuratively, in helping the Yankees become a more cohesive unit. The team has morphed from a group of players that general manager Brian Cashman frankly told Sabathia was "broken" while attempting to recruit his services as a free agent in December 2008.
In the seasons that have followed, Sabathia has been something of a Pied Piper in the clubhouse, organizing outings to basketball games during Spring Training and dinners with teammates over the course of the season.

Sabathia said that he does not consider himself a vocal leader, and that if he does lead at all, it is by example. That seems to be a fair assessment, because for the most part, wherever Sabathia has gone, the Yankees have happily followed.

"To me, I felt like [Cashman] was talking about the clubhouse and guys getting along," Sabathia said. "Obviously we had the talent here for many years and just couldn't get the chemistry together."

Sabathia said that he did not do it alone, naming Nick Swisher, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira as those who helped transition the atmosphere of the Yankees' clubhouse into a lighter and more welcoming room.