Don’t over think it. That’s essentially what Derek Jeter said after CC Sabathia’s first appearance of the spring. Don’t focus on the lingering concerns of offseason elbow surgery, or the importance of reliable starting pitching.
“I don’t care who we have in our lineup,” Jeter said. “We could have everyone back, it’s still comforting when you know he’s healthy and he’s able to go out there and pitch. That’s how you win. You win with pitching. Everyone knows how important CC is to our team.”
With just over two weeks until Opening Day, the Yankees finally saw their ace this afternoon. Sabathia’s looked healthy for at least a month now, and he passed every test leading up to today’s start. When he finally got on the mound, Sabathia had a rocky first inning — two runs on three hits and a walk — but he settled in. Still quite a few hits, but he pitched out of trouble, didn’t allow another run and didn’t walk another batter while pitching through the fifth.
“He was battling today the first two innings with his fastball, cutting and maybe sinking, just trying to get the rhythm of the game,” catcher Francisco Cervelli said. “But the last two innings, fastball command was really good. His slider, amazing the whole game. But the key for him is to have the location with the fastball all the time, be able to locate the fastball, throw in on the hands, because his ball is so heavy. For me, he looks really good.”
For now, the Yankees rotation looks like a strength. Heath and age are obviously concerns, but in theory, it’s a strong group for this season of presumably diminished offense. And obviously it starts with Sabathia. According to YES Network, his fastball topped out at 90 mph today — “Usually I’m 88-90 (in spring training), so if I’m at 90 today, that’s pretty good,” he said — and there will be two more spring starts to improve his stuff before the season opener.
“You’re always nervous going into a game,” Sabathia said. “A little bit, anyway. If somebody tells they’re not, they’re lying. Just getting out there and facing a different team, facing big-league hitters, there’s that nervousness. As far as getting on the mound and my arm feeling good, I had no problem with that. … I started letting it go early and didn’t have any problems. I felt good. I’ll just keep building in the bullpen, make sure my fastball command gets better and just go from there.”
• Ronnier Mustelier seemed to be in bad shape after he crashed into the railing in front of a third-base camera pit in the fourth inning. When I saw it happen live, I thought his chest took the brunt of the impact, but Mustelier said that wasn’t the worst of it. “It wasn’t serious,” he said. “Most serious was the leg, the right knee and the left hamstring.”
• Mustelier said he was focused on blocking the sun with his glove, which is why he didn’t realize the rail was coming up. “His back was to me,” Jeter said. “I didn’t know if he saw it or not, but he didn’t see it. That was rough.”
• Speaking of Jeter: “There’s nothing to report,” he said. “Honestly, it’s just like any other spring training. When you go out there and you start, you hope you get more ground balls and more action as you move along.”
• Francisco Cervelli went deep today. “Wait another 300 at-bats maybe to hit another one,” he joked.
• Even with Brennan Boesch, the Yankees still need help in the infield. Mustelier at third is clearly an option, but Juan Rivera is hitting .343 while playing a lot of first base lately. “He’s done a good job for us too,” Girardi said. “He’s made all the plays. When you play a position, that’s what you ask players to do. Make all the plays. And he’s done that.”
• Looking for some specifics of Sabathia’s start? “I got some swings and misses on the changeup,” he said. “Started back-dooring the cutter. They were laying off the back foot, so I started back-dooring it and got some swings. That’s just another pitch that we can use during the season.”
• The Yankees won 7-3 despite having just six hits. Jeter had a single, Thomas Neal had another double and Travis Hafner homered; but the offensive star might have been Mustelier’s replacement at third base. Jose Pirela went 2-for-3 with a pair of triples, two runs and one RBI.
• By the way, Mustelier stole a base today. “He’s more athletic than I thought,” Girardi said. “He runs pretty well.”
• Joba Chamberlain was charged with one run, which scored on Dave Robertson’s watch. Mark Montgomery and Vidal Nuno each threw a scoreless inning to close out the win.
• Jorge Posada is back in camp as a guest instructor. Tino Martinez was also here today as the Marlins hitting coach.
• Almost forgot the upcoming Yankees starters:
Saturday: Hiroki Kuroda (home), David Phelps (road)
Sunday: Ivan Nova
Monday: off day
Tuesday: Adam Warren
Wednesday: Vidal Nuno (CC Sabathia in the minor leagues)
Thursday: David Phelps
Friday: Ivan Nova (Hiroki Kuroda in the minor leagues)
Saturday: Andy Pettitte
Sunday: Adam Warren
Associated Press photos