New York manager Aaron Boone said before Friday night's game against Toronto that Sabathia will work out of the bullpen next week as the American League East champions prepare for the playoffs.
The 39-year-old lefty has pitched in relief just once in his 19-season career, going 1⅓ innings in a deciding Game 5 loss to Detroit in the 2011 AL Division Series.
Sabathia's other 583 appearances have all come as a starter. He is 5-8 in 22 starts with a 4.99 ERA this season and has dealt with knee trouble.
Sabathia has said this will be his final season playing in the majors.
The Yankees are still figuring out their rotation for the postseason, which begins Oct. 4 with the best-of-five division series. Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ and Luis Severino are among the candidates to start.
Severino came back from a lat injury and made his season debut with four shutout innings in a start Tuesday. Domingo Germán, the team's top winner at 18-4, was put on administrative leave Thursday under Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy and his status for the postseason is uncertain.
Boone said he anticipates using Sabathia in a controlled setting next week at Tampa Bay. If that goes well, Boone said he would try it "a little more on the fly" next weekend at Texas. Boone envisions a "significant role" for Sabathia in the postseason.
"That's why we want to do this a couple of times. He's certainly on board with it and wants to do it," Boone said.
"I feel like for obviously as much as he has to deal with the knee, I feel like he's in at least a pretty good place right now to be able to do it," Boone said.