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Postgame notes: “He was exactly what we needed”

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It’s easy to look at CC Sabathia’s past three starts and believe that he’s been the exception to the rule. The rest of the rotation might have struggled, but surely not the Yankees ace. Not the guy who just beat the Rangers and Tigers in back-to-back starts and has pitched into the eighth inning three times in a row.

But slow starts are nothing new to Sabathia, and his first few outings this year weren’t particularly ace-like. What makes Sabathia an exception to the rule is that there’s never any doubt he’ll get it turned around and get on this kind of roll.

“I think we’ve seen him do it time and time again,” manager Joe Girardi said. “When we signed him, in spring training, we talked about that this is a guy who has notoriously got off to slow starts, let’s not evaluate him the first month of the season. And if I remember, that start was a little bit slow. You talk about a guy that you signed for a long time and expect good things, but that’s kind of his history. So that gives me confidence that he does get off to a slow start that things are going to turn around, because I’ve seen it time and time again.”

Sabathia’s ERA has dropped with each start. He was better than the numbers showed in Texas, but today was a legitimately dominant performance. Prince Fielder took him deep, and Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI double, but Sabahtia allowed only two other hits and struck out eight.

“You always feel confident that you can go out and hold a team down,” Sabathia said. “I felt pretty good today. Moved the ball around and made some pitches. … (Fastball command) has been getting better in the bullpens and in the games. I’ve been able to command it. I think that really makes my offspeed stuff that much better. When I can do that, I feel pretty good.”

On a day the Yankees took a proactive step to try to improve the back of their rotation, the best thing they could do to sort out the top of the rotation was to leave Sabathia exactly where he is.

“He’s a guy that we’ve come to rely on, going out there and battling and keeping us in games,” Derek Jeter said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t want to come out, and especially when we’ve been using out bullpen a lot lately, he was exactly what we needed.”

[3]• Girardi confirmed after today’s game that David Phelps will take Garcia’s spot in the rotation on Thursday in Kansas City. That’s about four hours from Phelps’ family home in St. Louis. “They were coming out regardless,” Phelps said. “But they were going to come Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Now I’m sure they’ll come on Thursday. It’s nice for the family too, to know exactly which day I’m going to pitch.”

• Although Girardi says it’s not a personal catcher situation, Chris Stewart has caught Sabathia’s past three starts, and Sabathia said he hasn’t shook once in the past two starts. “It feels good,” Sabathia said. “To believe in what he’s calling, he’s been calling great games, catching great games. I’m just excited about being able to work with him for however long it works out.”

• Stewart has at least one hit in each of those past three starts, and today’s single led to a run on a close play at the plate in the seventh inning. “We talk about it with all our catchers, your first job is defense,” Girardi said. “You talk about saving runs. I know that doesn’t go on the back of a bubblegum card, but it’s really really important, and he does a tremendous job doing it. I tell our catchers, offense is second. Save runs for me. And they understand that.”

• Dave Robertson picked up right where Sabathia left off today, striking out two in a dominant ninth inning. Through 10 innings this season, Robertson has allowed seven hits and struck out 15. He’s the last Yankees pitcher — except D.J. Mitchell, I guess — who has yet to be charged with a run.

[4]• Alex Rodriguez drove in two runs today and moved ahead of Willie Mays for sole possession of eighth place on baseball’s all-time RBIs list. He has 1,904.

• Just a little bit behind Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson picked up his 500th career RBI today.

• Granderson said he had to watch a replay to realize how close Austin Jackson came to catching Granderson’s fourth-inning home run to center field. “I didn’t see what happened right away,” Granderson said. “When I heard the crowd make the noise that they did, I knew something good happened, I just didn’t know on which side. Then the umpire told me it went over the fence.”

• Jeter snapped an 0-for-9 with a 2-for-3. He now has 36 hits, his most ever for the season’s first month. He leads the team with 12 multi-hit games this season.

• Andruw Jones was hitless in his past 19 at-bats but went 2-for-2 with a home run after replacing Nick Swisher, who left with a hamstring injury.

• The Yankees drew a season-high nine walks and scored their first run on a bases-loaded walk. Tigers starter Max Scherzer had seven of those walks. “We’re not supposed to do that,” Jim Leyland said. “Major League pitchers are not supposed to do that, walk that many.”

• The Triple-A rotation has lost D.J. Mitchell, but it’s getting Manny Banuelos back from the disabled list [5]on Wednesday.

Associated Press photo